NSF Awards $1M Grant to Support Liberal Arts Science Scholars
St. Lawrence University has been awarded a five-year National Science Foundation grant worth nearly $1 million for the continuation of its Liberal Arts Science (LAS) Scholars program, the largest NSF grant in the University’s history.
The Improving Accessibility of the Liberal Arts Sciences (LAS++) project builds upon the LAS Scholars program, which NSF awarded St. Lawrence nearly $620,000 in 2015 to create. LAS offered scholarships to high-achieving, underrepresented and first-generation students in STEM fields with the aim of improving their retention and graduation. The first cohort of St. Lawrence LAS scholars graduated in 2019, including several graduating summa cum laude, or with highest honors.
“That NSF has renewed its support for St. Lawrence’s Liberal Arts Science Scholars program is not only a badge of honor but also a testament to the work that we do and the opportunities our faculty create for all students,” said President William L. Fox. “The first cohort of LAS students have demonstrated that St. Lawrence’s nurturing culture creates a strong sense of belonging, which then ultimately translates into their success both at St. Lawrence and beyond.”
The LAS++ grant will provide scholarships for up to 24 Pell-eligible students pursuing STEM majors, which include chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics, statistics, physics or a non-clinical track of biology. While the original LAS grant only provided funding for scholarships, the NSF LAS++ grant will also provide funding for summer undergraduate research opportunities.
“We believe that research—which appeals to a wide-array of students—is the key to success for undergraduates,” said the grant’s principal investigator Jessica Chapman, Grace J. Fippinger '48 Professor of Sciences and associate professor of statistics. “Research has strong motivating properties that let students hone their skills for what ultimately become real-world applications.”
Working with St. Lawrence Admissions, Chapman and the other faculty who participated in writing the grant will begin recruiting the first group of up to 12 students, who will begin in the fall 2020 semester. A second cohort will be recruited to begin in fall 2021.
Chapman was joined in writing the grant by Piskor Professor of Biology Erika Barthelmess; Assistant Professor of Chemistry Adam Hill, Associate Professor of Statistics Ivan Ramler, and Assistant Professor of Education Jessica Sierk. The group will begin working to understand best practices for mentoring underrepresented students in summer 2020. “After the second year of the program,” Chapman said, “we will host on-campus workshops for other faculty and staff to share our findings and experiences mentoring underrepresented students.”
As part of their First-Year Seminar, LAS++ students will work directly with faculty to develop an authentic research project that is of interest to them. In their second year, LAS++ students will take part in a Sophomore Journeys seminar course that will introduce proposal writing, which, Chapman said, is key to conducting research in STEM fields.
The LAS++ award will become active in March 2020, when the existing LAS grant will expire.