Northwest Vista College recently received an $88,000 award from the Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund to give students the opportunity to earn competitive hourly stipends for environmental field work in the spring 2022 semester. This unique program, dubbed Microsoft Community College Undergraduate Research Experience or Microsoft CCURE, will provide students with research experience that will help them prepare for careers in environmental studies.
Students participating in the program can go beyond the classroom walls earning $15 an hour, plus mileage reimbursement, to do undergraduate-level research at the NVC EcoLab, which is located on 28 acres, off Hwy 16 outside the city of Bandera.
At the NVC EcoLab, students will analyze habitat and count birds and mammals to help write a Texas Parks and Wildlife management plan for the property. The NVC EcoLab is a partnership between the college and private property owners. With this plan, the property owners hope to increase the pollinator population on the land, which includes raising bees and attracting more butterflies. This has far-reaching effects since without pollinators, humans and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.
“Most community college students must wait until they are juniors or seniors at four-year colleges before they can get hands-on, real-world experience, but with the funding from Microsoft, this means students can earn money while realizing their futures in environmental careers,” said Dr. Scott Walker, NVC’sprofessor/coordinator of Geography & Environmental Sustainability, and the lead project coordinator of Microsoft CCURE.
“With Microsoft’s generous support, local students will have the opportunity to do environmental science field research, not just study about it in a classroom,” Walker added.
In addition to stipends, students who are pre-majoring in environmental studies will be able to apply for academic scholarships from $500 to $1,200 to help them continue this educational path. NVC has transfer agreements with UTSA to streamline the transition to a four-year university.
The Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund, created and managed by Microsoft’s Datacenter Community Development team, is designed to support community-led projects, increase collaboration among award recipients, and develop ecosystems that help deliver common community priorities. Through this approach, Microsoft hopes to achieve long-term, systemic, and holistic outcomes in the communities in which it operates.
“Microsoft is pleased to partner with Northwest Vista College and its EcoLab to empower students with a unique learning opportunity to become more environmentally conscious,” said Alex Icenogle, Datacenter community lead for San Antonio. “The Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund awards are an important way for the company and our employees to contribute to stronger, more resilient communities.”
“For more than 26 years, NVC has made strides to be an environmental leader in the Westover Hills area and helping students become good stewards of the environment and preparing students for careers of the future,” said NVC President Dr. Ric Baser.
“This partnership with Microsoft takes the stress off of students trying to juggle the task of working and going to school,” Baser added. “These funds will help our pre-environmental majors focus on careers that bring solutions to our environmental challenges.”