GCC Receives $632,000 National Science Foundation Grant for Student Scholarships

July 22, 2015

The National Science Foundation S-STEM program has awarded $632,000 to Greenfield Community College to provide scholarships to students in Engineering, Environmental Science, Farm and Food Systems, and Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency over a five-year period. The E2S5 (Environment, Engineering, Sustainability Science Student Success Scholarships) Project will provide up to $10,000 to those full-time, Pell eligible students from these four disciplines who are accepted into the E2S5 initiative. This award is an outcome of the tremendous growth of the Engineering Program and the development of the SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy) Education Center at Greenfield Community College. The E2S5program will be led by a team that includes Dean Mary Ellen Fydenkevez, Financial Aid Director Linda Desjardins, Principle Investigator and Engineering Faculty Amy Ehmann, SAGE Director Peter Rosnick, and Program Coordinators Teresa Jones and Brian Adams.

The E2S5 project has five goals:

1) Scholarships: The E2S5 Project will provide 102 Engineering, Environmental Science, Farm and Food Systems, and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency students with scholarships. S-STEM students can receive up to $5000 over and above Pell grants if they enter the program after completing 30 credits of their degree. Other students can receive up to $10,000.

2) Recruitment: The E2S5 Project will provide an additional reason why highly skilled students would choose GCC in general and these STEM programs in particular as the place to obtain an Associate Degree.

3) Student Support: The E2S5 Project will expand support for GCC students in these science, technology, and engineering fields, including enhanced advising and the support of an academic coach.

4) Retention: The E2S5 Project will encourage students to excel and provide support to increase their likelihood of staying in school and advancing through their academic program.

5) Supporting Transitions: The E2S5 Project will build on existing opportunities for experiential site-based learning and internships to deepen discipline understanding and to provide pathways to advancement to jobs or transfer. S-STEM students will be expected to engage with the transfer counselor and the internship coordinator and participate in career development workshops.

Commenting on the grant, GCC President Bob Pura said, “I am excited about this grant for GCC, our students and the community.  This grant is not only a statement of confidence by the National Science Foundation in the quality of GCC’s initiatives in STEM education, it is foremost about the opportunities that these scholarships will provide for GCC students who have a passion for the STEM fields. These scholarships will open doors for GCC students to follow their dreams into STEM fields and it will also develop the workforce needed in our community.”

Recognizing the impact of these scholarships, Desjardins said, “With the rising cost of education and the shrinking pool of federal scholarship support, more and more students graduate with burdensome debt. This S-STEM Scholarship will provide much needed support to scores of science students over the five years; and those students will have fewer financial pressures, they will have more time to devote to their studies, and will move on through their academic career with less student loan debt. This grant is a real win/win for the college and its students.”

Commenting on GCC’s science programs, Ehmann said, “GCC is the best place to begin one’s education in engineering, environmental science and the SAGE programs. GCC is all about access. This grant gives more people in our community the chance to move forward with their educational and career goals.”

“Making smart investments in STEM education is essential to growing our economy. With the scholarships this National Science Foundation award supports, Greenfield Community College will be able to give our local students a boost in pursuing these fields and preparing for today’s in-demand careers,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “It’s exciting to see the work Greenfield Community College is leading in engineering, energy, and sustainable agriculture and I’m grateful to NSF for making this investment. These scholarships will help to prepare the next generation of scientists right here in Massachusetts.”

In addition to providing for scholarships, the grant supports an extensive student support system, including enhanced advising and coaching, abundant tutoring and academic support, experiential learning/internship opportunities, career and transfer counseling, and community building special events. The project’s ambitious goals include well-defined and significant improvement in persistence rates. By the end of the grant period, GCC expects that 95% of S-STEM completers will either find discipline-related employment or transfer into a related discipline at a baccalaureate granting institution.

The program emphasizes the priorities of integrating teaching and experiential research and learning, promoting diversity, and encouraging scientific understanding that benefits society. The program builds on existing opportunities for experiential site-based learning and internships to deepen discipline understanding and to provide pathways to advancement to jobs or transfer. Internships provide students with the best possible experiential learning, they provide local businesses and agencies with student energy and expertise, and help prepare students to become responsive to the need for more American scientists and engineers in the workforce.

GCC’s science, technology, and engineering programs have grown tremendously in recent years. For example, in the spring of 2014, GCC had 86 Engineering majors, making it the fourth largest program in the college. In the fall of 2003, that number was 27 – a 219% increase in just over a decade.

This NSF grant is the latest in a series of local, state, and national grants and awards received by GCC in support of the College’s SAGE Center and science and technology programs. Grants and awards received by GCC in recent years include:

  • Growing Together in a partnership with Just Roots Farm, Franklin County Community Development Corp, and the Regional Employment Board in USDA Growing Together Community Grant in support of our Farm and Food Systems Program and Internships (2012-2015 , GCC’s share of the grant: $38,000)
  • National Science Foundation NSF-ATE (Advanced Technology Education) supporting SAGE initiatives (2014-16, $200,000)
  • Wallace Genetic Fund to support the SAGE Interactive Botanical Gardens (2014-15, $25,000)
  • The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts for the Franklin County Women’s GARDEN (Growing Agricultural Resiliency and Developing Economic Networks) Project with NELCWIT and Catholic Social Ministries (2014-18, GCC’s share of the grant: approximately $20,000/year)
  • American Association of Community Colleges Sustainable Education and Economic Development Center Overall Green Genome winner (2014, $5000)
  • US Department of Agriculture SPECA ENGAGE grant to enhance on farm agriculture education and to foster agriculture professional development for area high school teachers (2015-16,  $48,000)
  • STEM STARTER grant as part of statewide initiative to build STEM capacity at the community colleges and support high school rising seniors and recent graduates through summer math, science, and technology classes to help provide them a step up to their STEM academic careers (2014-16, $300,000)

For more information about the E2S5 Project, call or email Peter Rosnick (413-775-1441, rosnick@gcc.mass.edu), Amy Ehmann (413-775-1172, ehmanna@gcc.mass.edu) or Linda Desjardins (413-775-1105, desjardins@gcc.mass.edu).

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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