In early November, Orange Coast College received a five-year, $2.75 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions program, with the money intended to increase the rate of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The Title V grant also aims to increase the pipeline of future STEM teachers for elementary and secondary schools.
In 2017 OCC Geology Instructor Erik Bender and Dean of Math and Science Tara Giblin spearheaded an effort to apply for the Department of Education grant. OCC qualified for the funds due to its high number of Hispanic students, who make up roughly 35 percent of the student population at Coast.
“We found that OCC students in general weren’t doing well in STEM classes,” says Bender. “They were not transferring on, and were reaching some sort of boundary and just not progressing.”
The College hopes the grant will increase the number of students declaring STEM majors, increase success rates in math and science courses, and then improve transfer rates to four-year institutions. This involves developing partnerships with local K-12 community, as well as creating special programming that draws attention to careers in STEM education and research.
“We wrote this grant to basically help students succeed and it has a lot of tutoring, peer mentoring, you name it … it’s all included in the grant,” says Bender, who will serve as the project director. “We’re going to have a full-time STEM counselor. There’s also teacher education for people who may want to teach in STEM fields. We will be grabbing tutors from the sciences, physics, geology, astronomy, and bringing them to our STEM Center for full-time tutoring.”
The STEM Center provides study and workshop space as well as resources like textbooks, microscopes, models for studying anatomy plus specialized computer programs for math and engineering.
OCC also plans to launch a summer STEM Academy in Summer 2019, designed to provide middle and high school students with short programs to gain exposure to potential paths of study in STEM offered at OCC (including engineering, math, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, marine science, ecology and others).
The work undertaken via the Title V grant funds will integrate well with statewide initiatives like AB 705, which changes how students are placed in math courses, and Guided Pathways, which has a goal of streamlining student support and resources across the campus.
This article was released by Orange Coast College.