Saginaw Valley State University has been awarded $5 million by the Midland-based Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to increase learning in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) at the middle school, high school and college levels, particularly within the Great Lakes Bay Region. It is the largest single private gift SVSU has ever received.
The funds will be used to establish the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network at SVSU.
“We profoundly appreciate this expression of confidence in our ability to contribute to meeting the need for more highly qualified graduates in the STEM disciplines in our region and our state,” said SVSU President Donald Bachand. “We have a strong history in these fields and we have fine faculty and staff who are up to the task. This builds upon our many successful STEM programs already in place, and we’re eager to get started.”
SVSU will use the funds to support summer camps for middle school and high school students and to sponsor undergraduate research projects by SVSU students.
“We are pleased to have SVSU as a partner in this most vital effort,” said Macauley Whiting Jr., president of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. “There is a pressing need to expand the STEM pipeline and SVSU’s proposal addresses this by reaching students at three critical junctures. With the proper academic preparation, students from the Great Lakes Bay Region and across Michigan can enjoy rewarding careers and supply the talent to meet the workforce needs of our leading employers, benefitting all of us.”
Starting in 2015, SVSU will host a four-week, 160-hour summer camp that will target 60 middle school students who are struggling academically; it will be modeled on a successful pilot program implemented by SVSU and Saginaw Public Schools in 2012 at Ruben Daniels Middle School in Saginaw. Students who have participated in that program have demonstrated significant improvements in their math proficiency. The Ruben Daniels program enlists high school and college students to serve as mentors, as well as SVSU and school district faculty who serve as instructors.
Another aspect of the network will target 36 high school students per year in three 80-hour summer camps built around particular ‘hot topic' themes. One goal will be to encourage these students to pursue college degrees in the STEM fields by incorporating hands-on problem-based learning into camp activities. These camps will kick off in 2015.
The third element of the initiative will sponsor undergraduate research at SVSU to motivate students to complete college degrees in the STEM disciplines. Nationally, more than one-third of college students who declare a major in the STEM fields change their course of study prior to graduation.
The $5 million gift will be used to establish an endowment at SVSU to support such programs permanently, and to provide start-up funding to launch the programs.