Helping STEM Students Get to St. Mary’s University

Northwest Vista College will partner under St. Mary’s University on a grant project funded by the National Science Foundation to increase the transfer and retention rates of Hispanic students majoring in STEM fields.

The NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program grant awarded to St. Mary’s will help implement Project FUERTE: Fostering Undergraduate Education, Retention and Transfer Environments.

Dr. Juan Ocampo, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at St. Mary’s University, will serve as the principle investigator (PI) for the entire grant project. Dr. Thomas Pressly, coordinator of the NVC Engineering program, will serve as the NVC principle investigator, coordinating curriculum alignment efforts, enhancements of transfer agreements, faculty training, and curriculum development in the NVC STEM areas.

Dr. Mary Zocchi, with her vast background in STEM education and NSF experience, will serve as the NVC co-principle investigator, and will collect and analyze the data outcomes from the NVC research side, conduct student focus groups, and work with St Mary’s to develop the andragogical (the methods or techniques used to adult education) strategies and the design of the educational environment.

The purpose of the grant is to increase the Latinx STEM field transfer to and graduation rate from St. Mary’s University. Designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions, the collaborative partnership aims to strengthen the student transfers pathway from Northwest Vista College to St. Mary’s University, as well as match students with research and internship opportunities, provide academic and career advising, and facilitate faculty and peer mentoring.

Additionally, Thomas and his NVC team will identify and recruit STEM students into Project FUERTE and provide these project participants with faculty mentoring.

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