$716,000 Grant Aids WCU in Mission to Support Young Students of Color in STEM Fields


West Chester University campus
Image via West Chester University.

Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) have secured an FY23 Community Project Funding (CPF) grant in the amount of $716,000 to support an important project entitled West Chester University Moon Shot: I Want to STEM (sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The I Want to STEM! initiative is linked directly to West Chester University’s high-profile Moon Shot for Equity mission, which is dedicated to closing equity gaps in student success and defying systemic barriers by 2030 so all WCU students can excel. 

During the spring of 2022, a non-partisan panel of 14 community leaders in Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District reviewed 42 applications and recommended select projects to Representative Houlahan for funding through CPF. The West Chester University Moon Shot: I Want to STEM! project emerged as one of 15 offered to the House Committee on Appropriations for funding consideration. The House Committee on Appropriations approved all 15 projects submitted by Representative Houlahan’s office and full funding was secured on December 23 following a vote in the House.

Led by West Chester University Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering Brandon J. Mitchell and designed by the University’s College of the Sciences and Mathematics Center for STEM Inclusion and the Center for Nanomaterials, the I Want to STEM! initiative is a comprehensive outreach, research, and mentorship program that will guide students successfully from elementary school to a bachelor’s degree in STEM. The program will establish a chain of mentorship between grade 3-12 students, undergraduates, and faculty/industry partners. The project, which has the potential to serve as a dynamic model for addressing achievement gaps, has been intentionally designed to expand K-12 STEM engagement for students in grades 3-12 who are of color and low income, as well as to improve college STEM retention by increasing financial assistance and building a sense of community for college students at WCU who are of color and low income.

“Along the way, the students participating in this project will clearly see every next step in their path towards a STEM career with the guidance and support needed to be successful. Not only does this project have the potential to serve as a national example for closing achievement gaps, but it also holds promise to help meet STEM employment needs by providing students with hands-on experiences in real-world, industry-aligned activities and research projects,” said Associate Professor Mitchell. 

The grant funding comes at a time when a diverse STEM workforce is needed more than ever to increase our nation’s competitiveness in technology and innovation.

“STEM careers are for everyone and more seats are needed at a much longer table,” said Senior Vice President and Interim Provost Jeffery L. Osgood. “West Chester University (WCU) is deeply grateful to U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan and U.S. Senator Bob Casey for recognizing this need and advocating successfully on the University’s behalf to secure this critical FY23 Community Project Funding (CPF) grant. Supporting this transformative work demonstrates that inclusion is an uncompromising priority for all of us.”

“Professionals who work in STEM fields are highly committed to the advancement of STEM,” said Dean of the College of the Sciences and Mathematics Radha Pyati. “We need to be equally committed to cultivating and nurturing the next generation of STEM professionals in a way that includes women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups in the field. This grant demonstrates that we are here to do whatever we can to increase STEM-focused opportunities and support all students.”

The following are members of the WCU team who collaborated on the project’s development: Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering Brandon Mitchell (Principal Investigator), Dean of the College of the Sciences and Mathematics Radha Pyati, and Niki Bennett, former vice provost for research and creative activity.

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