In Fall 2019, Ferris will begin a $1.2 million grant program aimed at increasing enrollment and retention in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.
The new grant project is called Project S3OAR, spoken as Soar Three, which stands for Sustainable, Scalable Scholarships, Opportunities, Achievements and Results. The grant, which is provided by the National Science Foundation, will provide scholarships of up to $10,000 to 36 STEM students per year for four years. In addition to the scholarships provided, S3OAR will also provide students with other opportunities including job shadowing.
“Another big part of this grant is that it’s actually a research study. Students get scholarships, there’s a program and it’s designed so that they’re successful, but we’re also doing this comparative research study to see if shadowing between four and eight hours, three times during their first, second or later semesters gives students that sense of ‘Oh my gosh, this is really what I want to do,’ or the opposite and helps them redirect,” Co-Principal Investigator and Dean of Ferris’ College of Arts and Sciences Kristi Haik said.
Some Ferris students are excited about the opportunities this program will give incoming freshmen.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity that opens up the doors for freshmen and a reason why someone would want to come to Ferris,” Ferris pre-optometry sophomore Amanda Eslinger said. “It’s a great opportunity for those students to have an opportunity to be job shadowing. Now as a sophomore, I’m like ‘Oh shoot, I should have been job shadowing’ and I think this will prepare them for the future.”
In addition to the initial grant, there are plans to try to extend the program indefinitely through an $8 million endowment.
“An $8 million endowment at 4 percent return will generate about $320,000 per year. What that means is we can have a cohort of students who get $3,000 scholarships every year from now until the end of time,” Haik said.
Running the program as the principal investigator is Ferris mathematics professor Dr. Hengli Jiao, who has emphasized the impact that this grant can have on all students, calling on students not necessarily traditional to STEM fields to apply.
“We want to attract more students here and to emphasize to girls and minorities to apply. A lot of times when you have a program, it’s a lot of guys, but we want to encourage all students,” Jiao said.
Jiao said students should not be intimidated to not apply because they don’t think they have the qualifications. According to the Ferris website, the program is aimed at low-income but academically talented students.
“Sometimes students will think, ‘Very highly qualified students are going to apply. I’m not going to apply this year because I’m not qualified,’ and that is not the case,” Jiao said. “We consider students’ situations. If someone is from a big private school and you come from a rural school, those are factors. Maybe you have a lot of potential and just haven’t realized the potential there.”