Leveraging Innovation and Optimizing Nurturing in STEM: The LION STEM Scholars Program

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Berks Campus. PSU Berks is a four-year residential undergraduate university within the larger Penn State land-grant university system and serves approximately 2,300 students. Over its 6-year duration, this project will fund scholarships to 18 full-time high-achieving low-income students who are pursuing bachelor's degrees in STEM, with a focus on engineering students. First-year undergraduate students will receive renewable scholarships for up to 4 years. Scholars will be part of a multi-modal, curricular and co-curricular, support program and cohort experience. Curricular components will include a math-intensive summer bridge program, a first-year seminar, and a STEM-Persistence Seminar. Co-curricular activities focus on professional communication skills, financial literacy, career and workforce readiness, undergraduate research, faculty mentoring, and community engagement. Project investigators will disseminate outcomes and findings related to project challenges and successes, especially to other small public institutions and other PSU regional campuses striving to support low-income engineering students and other STEM students.

To increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with demonstrated financial need, the project will pursue several goals. First is to adapt, implement, and analyze evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities to support, retain, and graduate a diverse set of the project's engineering scholars. Second is to implement, test, and study through research and project evaluation strategies for systematically supporting student academic and career pathways in STEM, including development of STEM identity. Third is to contribute to the knowledge base through investigation of the project's four-year multi-modal program so that other colleges may successfully implement similar programs. And fourth is to disseminate outcomes and findings related to the supports and interventions that promote student success to other institutions working to support low-income STEM students. Using the Dynamic Systems Model of Role Identity [Garner and Kaplan, 2017 & 2019] as a theoretical framework, insights and outcomes from qualitative and quantitative research and evaluation methods will generate new knowledge emphasizing which aspects of the project's support interventions, or combination of interventions, are most effective for retention, engagement, academic performance, development of STEM identity, and overall success of students. The directions of investigation will address gaps in the literature and inform other higher-education professionals seeking to support students with a combination of curricular and co-curricular interventions, especially from urban regions containing a significant population of students who are underrepresented in STEM. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/1/2212/31/27


  • National Science Foundation: $749,991.00


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