WMU News

NSF funds 80 scholarships in technical fields

March 8, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Eighty scholarships valued $2,500 each and designed to help students complete degrees in computer science, engineering and mathematics will be established as part of a $220,000 grant awarded to Western Michigan University by the National Science Foundation.

The grant will fund the Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics Scholarship Program, an initiative directed by Dr. J. Donald Nelson, WMU associate professor of computer science. The program will provide assistance to low-income, academically talented students.

"Many times the biggest obstacle to a student completing their degree is financial," Nelson says. "These scholarships will allow students who otherwise may suspend or terminate their education to continue toward completion of a baccalaureate degree. "

The two-year grant will fund 40 scholarships each year to students pursuing degrees in computer science, computer technology, engineering, engineering technology or mathematics. The emphasis will be on granting the scholarships to underrepresented minorities.

According to Nelson, the average tuition at four-year colleges is expected to increase 3 to 5 percent this year, and the higher cost of college will make it more difficult for many minority students to acquire the education they need to remain competitive for employment.

Scholarship recipients also will be provided with academic or professional mentors in their fields of study. Those mentors, members of the local community, will assist the students with refining resumes, honing interview skills, learning to network and attaining real world experience.

"The mentors will prepare students for the workplace and increase their understanding of the link between workplace needs and their educational programs, " says Nelson. "A support system of mentors is a key tool to increasing the number of minorities in the sciences."

Currently, 9.6 percent of WMU's undergraduate student population is classified as underrepresented minorities, with only 10 percent of those pursuing a degree in computer science, engineering or mathematics. Nelson says that by providing financial, academic and psychological support, the University can improve the retention of these students and increase the likelihood of their graduation.

The first scholarships will be awarded for the fall 2000 semester. For more information, contact Nelson at (616) 387-5728.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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