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Harris-Stowe State University received the largest grant in the history of the institution in August 2008 when the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the University an incredible $2.498 million for increasing retention in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). On July 5, 2009, Harris-Stowe kicked off the inaugural summer component of the grant, which consists of the Academy for Science & Mathematics for incoming freshmen and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program for current students.
The Academy for Science & Mathematics prepares approximately 50 incoming freshmen from the St. Louis metropolitan area for the rigor and successful completion of first-year science and mathematics college courses through academic instruction, supervised study sessions, field experiences, various seminars and guest speakers. The students will specifically focus on introductory concepts of biology, chemistry, mathematics and literacy taught by Education Professor Dr. Linda Kleemann, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Wendell Brooks, Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Balakrishna, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Anbreen Bashir, College of Arts & Sciences Dean and Professor of Mathematics Dr. Lateef Adelani and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Ann Podleski.
The NSF grant provides room and board at the Rev. Dr. William G. Gillespie Residence Hall and Student Center, allowances for meals at the Hornet Dining Hall and a stipend for each student.
“Harris-Stowe’s NSF grant is for five years, and our goal is to provide summer academic opportunities for more than 400 entering first year students,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Dwyane Smith.
Academy for Science & Mathematics participant and Health Care Management student Duane Burnett said he had difficulty with math in high school and can tell that the academy has positively impacted his comprehension and math skills already. Further, he has improved his study habits and has learned about better preparing for lectures.
Business Administration student and incoming freshman Alyssa Tapp said she is enjoying living in the residence hall and meeting other students. She said the Academy for Science & Mathematics has taught her about the differences between high school and college, taking on more responsibility and how to improve her note-taking skills. Both Tapp and Burnett said they would highly recommend the Academy for Science & Mathematics to future incoming freshmen.
The second part of the NSF grant that is currently underway is the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, headed by Dr. Adelani, who is the Co-Principal Investigator of the grant along with Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Dwyane Smith. Three HSSU students, Muziwi Nyampfene, Christina Graves and Brooke Presley, conducted research and each received a $1,500 stipend through the NSF grant.
Under the guidance of Dr. Adelani, Nyampfene developed mathematical models for the growth of the AIDS epidemic among African-American males. Under the direction of Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Shereen Abdel Kader, Graves studied the impact of environmental changes on sea mammals. Under the leadership of Dr. Podleski, Presley investigated the relationship of cellular automata on classroom organization.
Senior Secondary Math Education major Presley applied to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program in preparation for graduate school. “I will take away a foundation of how to begin a research project and that it’s important to research something that is important to me. Research takes lots of time and work, so it’s important that you’re interested in the topic. I’ve learned that you don’t have to find a topic that is brand new. You can research something that someone else has already started. …I’ve learned how to be organized and how to organize research into a presentation.” The Summer Undergraduate Research Program has inspired Presley to continue her research after the program; she hopes to one day have the time and personnel to examine cellular automata in an actual classroom.
“Undergraduate research adds so much to students’ academic experiences,” said Dr. Smith. “Harris-Stowe is fortunate to be able to provide this opportunity to our students.”
Dr. Adelani said undergraduate research is important because “it moves [the students] from being the consumers to the creators of knowledge. To research is the only way they can begin the process of creating their own understanding of knowledge instead of reading from a book or somebody else’s idea.”
Only five institutions nationwide were awarded a grant of this nature by the NSF, and Harris-Stowe was fortunate to be one of them. Dr. Adelani said he would like to thank the NSF for the amazing opportunity to promote science and mathematics among minority students.