Research at Nebraska 2019-2020 Report
From left: Petronela Radu, Jim Lewis, Brittany Duncan, Wendy Smith and Amy Goodburn

Growing, Diversifying STEM Workforce

They’re the next generation of mathematicians, computer scientists, software developers and technology entrepreneurs, eager to solve problems and improve society.

Nebraska is giving talented low-income students across the state an opportunity to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The support, in turn, will help expand Nebraska’s STEM workforce.

Nebraska partnered with Southeast Community College and Western Nebraska Community College to create a grant program called STEM Career Opportunities in Nebraska: Networks, Experiential-learning and Computational Thinking.

“We will be working with academically gifted, low-income students to help them successfully enter the workforce or pursue graduate education,”

Jim Lewis

STEM CONNECT, which began in spring 2020, will provide more than 120 students over the next five years with scholarships and academic support, including faculty mentors and a community of peers. The program targets underrepresented minorities, women, and rural and first-generation students.

“We will be working with academically gifted, low-income students to help them successfully enter the workforce or pursue graduate education,” said the program’s leader Jim Lewis, Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics.

Students begin their studies at either the university or a community college.

Scholarships, up to $8,000 per year, are renewable for four years at Nebraska or two years at SCC or WNCC. Students who transfer to Nebraska receive two more years of funding.

Abby Seibel, a computer engineering major from Elkhorn, Nebraska, was one of 10 UNL students chosen for STEM CONNECT’s initial cohort. She’s passionate about using technology to solve some of society’s most intractable environmental problems in water and energy.

“I am newer to the technology field and can sometimes feel a little behind or out of place because I haven’t been coding for years,” Seibel acknowledged. “I think that STEM CONNECT will be a really good support system for me and will help me explore STEM more boldly.”

STEM CONNECT also funds a study examining factors that affect retention, academic success and graduation in STEM fields among low-income students.

A large interdisciplinary team of researchers, advisers and administrators from all three institutions participates in the program.

A $3.56 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM initiative funds this program.

+ Additional content for Growing, Diversifying STEM Workforce

Nebraska news release: $3.56 million grant launches multi-institutional effort to grow, diversify STEM workforce

Media mention: Grant will provide scholarships to Nebraska students pursuing STEM fields (Lincoln Journal Star, 8/30/2019)

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