CRANFORD, NJ - Union County College has been awarded a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, part of the NSF's first program to support STEM research at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The initiative, 'Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program (HSI Program)', awarded funding to 31 new projects nationwide that aim to increase retention and graduation rates for students at HSI institutions, which are defined as colleges and universities whose enrollments are at least 25 percent Hispanic.

In New Jersey, Union County College (UCC) is one of four community colleges designated as an HSI.

The UCC project, 'Infusing Research as Pedagogy', will embed course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) into STEM courses, support independent research experiences during the academic year, and develop a summer research academy.

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“We are thrilled to have been selected. The mission of the project is to develop students’ critical thinking skills through the research opportunities," said Dr. Liesl Jones, Principal Investigator and UCC’s Dean of STEM. "The goal is to motivate each student to continue on to a four-year institution with a STEM major. This is an incredible opportunity for our students.”

Joining Dr. Jones on this project are Co-Principal Investigators Dean of Curriculum, Accreditation, and American Honors Dr. Bernard Polnariev, and Senior Professor of Psychology, Dr. Mandana Ahsani.

"NSF has a long history of funding individual researchers and projects at HSIs," said Jim Lewis, acting NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. "This new program seeks to support growth at HSIs that have traditionally lacked federal resources, to assure that they can encourage the development of scientists and engineers."

UCC has an economically, racially, and ethnically diverse student body, enabling the project to build a diverse STEM workforce in Union County and beyond. Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they make up only 6 percent of the U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. More than 60 percent of Hispanic students attend an HSI. The NSF’s HSI Program invests in projects that build capacity and increase retention and graduation rates for STEM students at HSIs. It also aims to build capacity at HSIs with little or no prior NSF funding.

For more information about STEM majors offered at the college, visit ucc.edu.