SJC Receives $25,000 Grant from the Helen Brach Foundation

April 3, 2014

Saint Joseph's College has received a $25,000 grant from the Helen Brach Foundation. The grant will be used to increase the fall-to-fall retention rate of 25 SJC undergraduate students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors.

Statistics on the state of education in the United States indicate that fewer domestic students are choosing to major and successfully complete degrees in STEM disciplines, and leaders in these fields have called for major initiatives to be undertaken nationally to address these trends. Programs to better prepare incoming students for college life as STEM majors that include peer mentoring, faculty mentoring, academic support services, discover-based research experiences, and social activities and events have proven to be effective strategies for increasing retention rates.

SJC plans to proactively address the nation's broader STEM challenges and needs while simultaneously improving the retention rates for its own STEM majors with a program that includes two collaborative initiatives.

The first is a five-day academic bridge program the week prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year. The second is a freshman research experience program (one credit hour independent study course) during the Fall and Spring semesters of the 2014-15 academic year. Participation in the program is limited to students majoring in Biology, Biology-Chemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Mathematics.

The academic bridge program will be designed and implemented by a STEM faculty team led by SJC Associate Professor of Physics and Computer Science Dr. Jennifer Coy. The program will focus on developing academic skills necessary for success in STEM and all other majors, providing a social support network necessary for success, and increasing career opportunities for STEM majors.

As part of the freshman research experience program, students will enroll in a one credit hour independent study course in either the Fall or Spring semester to conduct research in their major. A maximum of five students per faculty member will be permitted in order to maintain a low student-to-faculty ratio. Students will be required to present their work at the SJC Undergraduate Colloquium in April 2015.

Additional enrichment activities will take place during the Fall and Spring semesters. Alumni from each STEM major will give informational talks regarding their careers and explain the aspects of their SJC education that have been most valuable to them. Furthermore, events will be held that demonstrate the importance of science in various artistic endeavors. Students will also participate in field trips that highlight STEM career opportunities.

Four peer mentor students will coordinate at least two larger social events for students to promote a social support network that targets retention challenges. These students will maintain close contact with all participating students, talk about their research experiences, and encourage students in their studies.

“The STEM faculty is very excited about the opportunities that this grant will create for our students,” said SJC Associate Professor of Physics and Computer Science Dr. Jennifer Coy. “This program allows freshmen to arrive on campus early and begin building the support structure that is important for success in STEM fields. Being able to conduct research during their freshman year is an amazing opportunity, and the STEM faculty is committed to preparing these students throughout their undergraduate experience to be leaders in our global society once they graduate from SJC.”

Named a "character-building college" by the Templeton Foundation, a "Best Midwestern College" by the Princeton Review, and “Best Value” and "Best Midwestern College" by US News & World Report, Saint Joseph's College is a four-year, Catholic college offering 27 majors, 4 group majors, 35 minors, and 9 pre-professional programs, complemented by the nationally acclaimed Core Program. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana, approximately 90 minutes from both Chicago and Indianapolis, on a park-like campus of 180 acres and has an enrollment of nearly 1,200 students.

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