Bryn Mawr College Receives $1.65 Million “First in the World” Grant to Improve Student Math Skills and Increase Number of Students Earning STEM Degrees

Posted September 30th, 2014 at 3:46 pm.

To drive innovations in higher education that increase college completion, value and affordability, the Education Department today awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the new “First in the World” (FITW) grant program.

Bryn Mawr has received a $1.65 million grant as part of the program that will fund research on improving student mathematics skills with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of underrepresented, underprepared, and low-income students earning STEM degrees.

“After receiving nearly 500 applications from around the country, we’re excited to announce Bryn Mawr will receive a First in the World grant, funded for the first time this year,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “Each grantee demonstrated a high-quality, creative and sound approach to expand college access and improve student outcomes.  We are confident these projects will have a positive impact on increasing access and completion and help us reach President Obama’s 2020 goal, to once again have the highest share of college graduates in the world.”

Associate Provost and Chair of Physics Elizabeth McCormack is the lead researcher on the project. She and the other faculty members involved plan to use a blended learning approach to provide students with personalized, self-paced instruction delivered in the form of online modules(combined with face-to-face coaching support) to be completed concurrently with the gateway STEM course in which they are enrolled.

McCormack and Associate Professor of Computer Science Doug Blank and Physics Senior Lecturer and Lab Coordinator Mark Matlin have already begun some of this work through funding by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“Remedial math programs generally do not reach the students who enter college with marginal mathematics preparation,” said McCormack. “These students may be capable of passing the basic mathematics courses needed to fulfill general college degree requirements, but they either do not have the degree of mastery and skill needed to thrive in STEM majors, or their high school preparation has been uneven and they need remediation in specific areas, such as trigonometry or geometry. Our project will address these gaps.”

Twelve other colleges are partnering with Bryn Mawr on this project: Allegheny College, Denison University, Franklin and Marshall College, Grinnell College, Lafayette College, Mills College, Oberlin College, St. Olaf College, Smith College, Vassar College, Wellesley College and Whittier College.

“We have a commitment to ensure that all talented students have the same opportunities to not just attend our schools, but to succeed,” says Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy. “I’m particularly proud that our faculty and staff have embraced the tools and technology to make this sort of work possible. By combining the best of the liberal arts model with these latest innovations, we’re transforming young lives and our own campuses.”

In January, Cassidy took part in a White House summit on increasing college access and completion rates for underrepresented, high achieving, students. Among the programs that Bryn Mawr has launched in recent years to improve access are the College’s partnership with the Posse Foundation, including its new, second Posse focused on students who have demonstrated an advanced aptitude in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields; its Community College Connection program begun in 2011; and instructional programs that address needs of underserved students.

Nearly 500 applications were submitted for this FITW grant competition.  The 24 colleges and universities selected for this initial year of awards represent 17 states, 19 public, private, and nonprofit 4-year institutions and five public and private two-year institutions.  Six of the 24 winning applications—including an HBCU—are from minority serving institutions (MSIs), which will receive about $20 million in funding.  Many of the grantees have additional organizational partners, such as other postsecondary institutions, non-profits, and businesses.

Bryn Mawr is the only traditional liberal arts college, and the only Pennsylvania college, to receive an award. This project will build on Bryn Mawr’s record of leadership in the development and study of blended learning approaches in a liberal arts college settings.

Filed under: grants,KC,president,sciences Tags: by mgray

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