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Harrisonburg: Foundation boosts efforts to add to science, engineering, math enrollment

Staff Report

Efforts by James Madison University and other area colleges and universities to boost enrollment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors have received nearly $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation.

The NSF money will be used to run a summer “get ahead” type program for students who are interested in STEM majors and who need some extra preparation to do college-level work.

“It’s a way for students to really build some momentum at the outset and be ready to succeed on Day 1,” said Bob Kolvoord, professor of integrated science and technology at JMU and project director. Kolvoord worked with representatives of Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University and SRI Inc., to secure the $1,476,668 grant.

The project will work with rising freshmen who have been accepted by one of the four schools. More than 50 students will take part in different aspects of the project each year. Students and faculty from all four institutions will work together during the summer program and learning communities will be established to build relationships and support that continue through the academic year. The project will also help place students in summer internships to let them experience science and technology in the workplace.

SRI Inc. will be in charge of project evaluation and will continue to build on its research on workforce development.

In three years the program will be eligible for another $1 million, which will enable it to run for two additional years. The goal of the program is to generate an additional 200 STEM degrees at the four institutions in the next five years.

“The whole idea is to build and sustain higher numbers across the different STEM fields in both the basic and applied sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology,” Kolvoord said.

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