CRANFORD – Union County College received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) first program to support STEM research at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The grant, 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. HSIs are defined as colleges and universities whose enrollments are at least 25 percent Hispanic, and in New Jersey, Union is one of four community colleges designated as an HSI.

Union’s 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. Principal Investigator and Union’s Dean of STEM Dr. Liesl Jones stated, “We are thrilled to have been selected. The mission of the project is to develop students’ critical thinking skills through the research opportunities. 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."

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Union 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. 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 the STEM majors offered at the college, visit our website at