USDA Awards NEIU Students Studying STEM


The grant will assist students studying subjects like biology whose department heads

Five students will be the chosen recipients of a $200,000 grant gifted to NEIU by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The grant is set to fund “The Multicultural Scholars Program of NEIU,” a program synonymous to the USDA funding agency of a similar name. The program will support students who major in earth or environmental science and minor in a different area of STEM.

“Scholars will be recruited from specific Earth Science and Environmental Science courses, including First-Year Experience courses, General Education courses, and foundation courses in both majors,” said Dr. Laura Sanders, an earth science professor in an email. “Recruiting from these courses will allow us to identify multicultural students who are committed to STEM and have demonstrated their ability to succeed in STEM courses. “Students selected for the program will be either second-semester freshmen or first-semester sophomores. The first participants will be selected in Spring 2017.”

Sanders is the co-director of the program alongside fellow earth science professor and department coordinator Kenneth Voglesonger. The two will develop an application for students in the fall and it will be available online. Students who meet criteria for the program can be chosen or recommended by faculty.

“They don’t have to be ESCI/Envi Sci majors when they apply, but they will need to be in order to progress in the program,” Sanders said. “It’s so much fun. I love working with students and I love studying the Earth. Doing both at once is my dream job, and I feel lucky to do it at NEIU, where the students are so motivated. Our students have the potential to go out and make real change in the world.”

According to Sanders, NEIU has received three other USDA-based grants throughout the history of the college of arts and sciences. Although the USDA Hispanic-Serving Institutions Grant program granted those three, this is the first time NEIU has received a grant through the particular USDA Multicultural Scholars Program.

“Right now the Earth Science Department has another USDA grant, the AGUA Project, that will fund 20 students to engage in summer research and paid internships over the next two summers,” Sanders said. We also have a National Science Foundation grant that will fund student research in Mexico next summer.”

Project recruitment will begin in the fall semester of 2016 with the first three grant recipients starting their work in the spring and summer semesters of 2017. The additional two recipients will be conferred the grant beginning in the spring 2017 and fall 2018 academic year. Each participant will receive a scholarship of approximately $6500.

“We applied for the grant last August,” Sanders said. “We just last week got official notice that we are going to receive the funding. Our first task will be to establish the account and get everything set up on this end before we actually can receive and start using the funding.”

A few of the criterion students will need to meet in order to get into the program are a strong GPA, an interest in furthering their undergraduate education and a career related to those within the USDA. According to Sanders, because NEIU is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, this grant helps make it possible for the university to diversify the targeted workforce.