$1 million NSF grant supports underrepresented students

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September 10, 2020
Detroit Mercy students talk while working on an Engineering project.

Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science recently received a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $998,996 to provide a support program for students historically underrepresented in STEM careers.

The award is part of NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, which aims to increase and understand the success of students who demonstrate financial need and are pursuing STEM degrees.

Shadi Bani Taan, an associate professor and director of Detroit Mercy’s Computer Science and Software Engineering programs, leads the project, which is called Science and Engineering Equity Development (SEED). SEED is set to start in summer 2021 and will feature two cohorts of 10 freshman students, who will receive $9,000 of annual scholarship support over four years to help with unmet financial need.

SEED’s goal is to increase retention, graduation and employment rates of students underrepresented in STEM fields by providing them a support system that addresses personal, career and academic development. Students in SEED must complete three industrial co-operative internships and participate in group counseling sessions and non-residential cohort-building activities.

“Detroit Mercy will activate a broad network of personnel, as well as external stakeholders such as the students’ families and co-op employers, to achieve growth in these areas,” Bani Taan said.

While SEED assists students in multiple ways, Bani Taan says the program also benefits the NSF and the academic community by “investigating an innovative model by which smaller limited-resourced institutions can adapt evidence-based, high-impact practices in a manner which is financially sustainable.”

SEED is the latest program at Detroit Mercy that aims to increase diversity STEM fields. The University’s dual enrollment program with Detroit Cristo Rey High School and the innovating Detroit’s Robotics Agile Workforce (iDRAW) program introduce high school students to STEM disciplines, while the ReBUILDetroit initiative reduces barriers underrepresented students face with STEM by providing multiple research experiences and support systems.

"Research has established a number of high-impact practices that have been demonstrated to improve student outcomes,” said Richard Hill, assistant dean for Research & External Initiatives and associate professor of Mechanical Engineering. “The challenge is that emulating exemplar programs based on these practices is very expensive. The SEED program is exciting because it will pilot an innovative model for STEM student success that is financially sustainable and could be replicated by other smaller institutions with limited resources."

Three Detroit Mercy faculty join Hill as co-principal investigators of the SEED project: Megan Conrad, Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering; Mariam Faied, assistant professor and director of Robotics; and Jocelyn M. Bennett-Garraway, associate professor of Counseling and director of School Counseling. Professor of Mathematics Kathy Zhong is also a senior personnel on the project.

For more information about Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science, visit https://eng-sci.udmercy.edu/index.php. To learn more about the National Science Foundation, visit https://www.nsf.gov/.

— By Ricky Lindsay. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

Detroit Mercy students talk while working on an Engineering project.
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