CSU Bakersfield announces two large grants to strengthen STEM programs

Rather than waiting for state funding to advance its academic mission, CSUB has been notably entrepreneurial, seeking federal funding, engaging unique partnerships, and making use of available resources that have allowed CSUB to move ahead in spite of massive funding cuts to higher education in recent years.

As the latest example of this, the university has announced it has received two sizable awards from the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen education programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. And while CSUB's eligibility is due to its high Hispanic enrollment (37 percent), all student populations will benefit.

"CSUB is committed to increasing the number of underrepresented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. These grants will expand and enhance our efforts to do so," said CSUB President Dr. Horace Mitchell.

The first award — $870,000 renewable for five years — will be used to develop a new engineering sciences degree with tracks in biological engineering and engineering management, with instruction slated to begin next fall. The award will also be used to develop a model transfer and articulation agreement with Bakersfield College to establish a seamless engineering sciences degree pathway.

Dean of CSUB's School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering, Dr. Julio Blanco explained that many local students enroll first at Bakersfield College.

"The goal will be to remove identified obstacles so students who start their engineering studies at BC can successfully transfer to CSUB to complete their degrees," he said.

Engineering sciences will become CSUB's second engineering offering. The first is a computer engineering degree, which started this fall and was also funded by a large grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

CSUB has also received $734,000 over three years to increase the number of ethnic minorities, particularly ethnic women, studying in STEM fields. One of only 12 colleges and universities to receive the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) award, CSUB will use the funds to address a common struggle for engineering students — calculus. Specifically, the grant will be used to start a new, high-quality calculus sequence for engineering programs.

"The project addresses the roadblock in the calculus sequence that leads to stalled degree progress and enriches the engineering pathway by creating engaging, hands-on projects and peer mentoring," Blanco said.

In total, CSUB has received nearly $9 million in federal grant funding over the past 12 months — support that Blanco says has made engineering programs available at CSUB that would have otherwise been impossible.

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