STCC Grant aims to boost number of Latino STEM students

Nov. 3, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

Congressman Richard Neal, Springfield Technical Community College Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Arlene Rodriguez, Yadilette Rivera-Colon, assistant biology professor at Bay Path University and STCC President Dr. John Cook spoke at the announcement on Oct. 28 that the college received a $3.4 million federal grant.
Photo by James Langone, courtesy of Springfield Technical Community College

SPRINGFIELD – Yadilette Rivera-Colón, PhD, assistant professor of biology and Undergraduate Science Program coordinator at Bay Path University, recalled that she took a chance on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Speaking at the announcement that Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) was one of only three in the Commonwealth to be awarded a $3.4 million grant to help boost the number of Latino students in STEM programs, Rivera-Colón explained how she decided to accept an opportunity offered by one of her professors to go into research instead of following an academic course to become a dentist.

The decision changed her life, she said.

Rivera-Colón urged the faculty and administrators gathered for the announcement to “always be that person who provides opportunity.”

The grant from the federal Department of Education will be allocated over the next five years and will be used to help ensure student success in STEM programs.

According to Dr. Arlene Rodriguez, vice president for Academic Affairs at STCC, only 11.4 percent of Hispanic students at STCC – and 14 percent of low-income students – major in STEM fields.

She called those students “underserved.”

College President John Cook noted that 25 percent of the STCC enrollment is Hispanic and the grant “brings a critical degree of responsibility and commitment.”  

Congressman Richard Neal said the announcement marked a “pretty remarkable day for STCC.”

He added that STEM career “help our competitive position internationally.”

The program at STCC will include the following goals: increase the number of Hispanic/Low-Income students in STEM disciplines; increase pass and retention rates by redesigning developmental and gateway STEM coursework; provide student supports throughout degree program to encourage progression and completion; and provide high-quality professional development for STEM faculty.

The college will go into local middle and high schools to present STEM demonstration; redesign math and entry-level chemistry curses and hire two STEM student advisors. There will be a STEM Center developed and professional development opportunities for faculty.

The grant application was a year in the making, STCC officials noted.

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