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TLU Receives $1.3 Million National Science Foundation Grant Supporting STEM Student Success

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $1,389,765 grant to TLU for the project, “Building Capacity for Student Success in Science and Math: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Professional Engagement.”

Led by TLU Physics Department Chair Dr. Toni Sauncy, Center For Mexican American Studies Director Dr. Jennifer Mata, and Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Kevin Tate, the project will focus on improving STEM education, research opportunities, and professional development for students, especially those from historically underrepresented populations.

As an officially designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with a Hispanic student population of 40 percent, TLU is a key stakeholder in developing and supporting STEM students. Dr. Sauncy’s ongoing work to enhance the quality of undergraduate STEM education at TLU has included attending conferences hosted by the NSF specifically geared toward how HSIs can improve graduation and retention rates of students pursuing degrees within those majors, as well as support flexible, personalized learning to prepare the STEM workforce of the future.

“This award gives TLU the chance to be a place where we are actively making a difference in the lives of students who face significant challenges to being successful in STEM,” she said. “We aim to address those cultural barriers and figure out how changing our culture will reduce them. This grant is about taking action as a Hispanic Serving Institution to learn more and improve our abilities so we can understand how to best serve this population. My hope is that in a few years, people will be asking TLU for advice about how to do this.”

Sauncy also said information the NSF shared from listening sessions conducted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) about what was important to this population was invaluable. The sessions found that students who are engaged in research and have faculty trained in culturally-based advising to improve understanding and communication have a higher likelihood of developing a persistent STEM identity. They are also more likely to continue on to graduation than those who do not.

“Our world’s increasing reliance on technology and data means strong STEM-focused minds will continue to be in high demand, and we should give students in these fields every advantage to succeed,”said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “I applaud area leaders for their work to obtain this grant, and I’m grateful for their support of Texas Lutheran University.”

About The NSF

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." The NSF is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted