11:20 AM

CSUSM Receives $5M Grant to Expand Engineering, Increase Equity in STEM

California State University San Marcos has received a grant of nearly $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education that it will use to further expand opportunities and equity for students in STEM fields.  

The grant is funded at just under $1 million a year over five years, beginning Oct. 1. It’s part of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions – Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (HSI-STEM) Program, which is designed to increase the number of Hispanic and/or low-income students attaining STEM degrees.  

This HSI-STEM grant will build on a similar award that CSUSM received in 2016. That one, which totaled almost $6 million over five years, provided the funding to launch software and electrical engineering programs at CSUSM, create articulation and transfer agreements in engineering between partner two-year colleges and CSUSM, and build an “ecosystem of student success” for engineering majors.  

An ecosystem of student success is the intentional and strategic integration of campus resources (people, services and activities) to reduce the complexities that students face in learning about and benefiting from campus resources that support student success and degree completion. 

The new grant will expand on the engineering effort in CSUSM’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSTEM) by: 

  • Establishing an ecosystem of student success for each STEM degree from enrollment to graduation, in an inclusive and equitable environment. Components of each ecosystem will include advising, peer mentoring, faculty mentoring, student learning communities, and solidifying a sense of belonging for all majors.   

  • Developing a computer engineering degree program to complement the electrical and software engineering programs that were created through the 2016 grant.  

  • Further developing industry partnerships that will include co-operative education and provide students with industry internship opportunities. Co-operative education allows students to apply classroom learning and theory to periods of paid full-time employment as they earn their degree.   

  • Partnering with community colleges to recruit students to CSTEM and developing summer bridge programs for transfer students and incoming freshmen to integrate them into the CSTEM community. 

  • Increasing the number of Hispanic and/or low-income students attaining STEM degrees. 

“I am very excited about the new programs and partnerships that will be possible with the support of this grant,” said Jackie Trischman, the interim dean of CSTEM and a longtime professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Not only will we expand our college’s degree options in the high-demand computer engineering field, but we will also continue our work to create a more responsive, inclusive and service-minded college and university.” 

The project leaders for the grant will be Suzanne Hizer, a biology lecturer who has worked with multiple grant programs designed to support inclusivity, equity and student success in STEM; and Stephen Tsui, an associate professor of physics and chair of the department. Ricardo D. Fierro, associate dean of CSTEM and project director for the previous grant, led the working group that developed the main ideas of the current proposal. 

CSUSM is one of 33 HSIs in California that received funding from the Department of Education for STEM programs. The other two such institutions in San Diego County are San Diego State and San Diego City College.  

“As a proud graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a degree in mechanical engineering, I know firsthand the value of STEM education,” U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said in announcing the grants. “This funding for HSIs across California — from community colleges to universities — will help build upon the success of their STEM educational programming. Diversity in the research environment drives scientific discovery; that’s why I’m supporting a government-wide push to increase equity in STEM education. A more diverse STEM pipeline is key to maintaining America’s leadership in innovation and promise of educational opportunity for all.”