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USF Receives Nearly $3 Million to Enhance STEM Education

Project aims to boost the amount of well-prepared graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 30, 2015) The University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences will develop and implement evidence-based teaching strategies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs to improve student success, thanks to a nearly $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

USF’s ambitious approach addresses several aspects of the student experience, from the way STEM classes are taught to the advice students receive as they enter the university as freshmen or as community college transfers.

“Ultimately, the project will increase the number of well-prepared graduates in the STEM fields and share the model with other universities that have similar objectives,” said Chemistry Professor Gerhard Meisels. “This project helps meet a statewide and national need for the technology-prepared workforce of the future economy.”

Led by Meisels and his co-principal investigators Jennifer Lewis, PhD.; James Wysong, M.A.; Peter Stiling, PhD and Robert Potter, PhD, the team will conduct research for their five-year project, titled “Systemic Transformation of Evidence-Based Education Reform (STEER).” The STEER project is in collaboration with Hillsborough Community College, which will bring together USF and HCC faculty to discuss curriculum issues and share best practices.

The STEER project will aid instructors, including teaching assistants, in the application of evidence-based teaching strategies by providing training programs, work assignments and support structures, as well as taking steps to ease the transition of STEM transfer students from community colleges. This includes the creation of a Transition Implementation Leadership Team made up of faculty, administration and staff, as well as providing peer advising for potential transfer students by current HCC graduates enrolled at the university.

Eric M. Eisenberg, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said this grant cements the College as a leader in enhancing the education of STEM students.

“By identifying best practices, providing additional training and enhancing academic advising, USF will build a new standard of STEM education that can be implemented at other universities,” Eisenberg said.

Meisels said STEER will implement a plan developed with the help of a previous grant from NSF. A 12-member team of faculty, administrators and staff spent nearly two years in an intensive planning process.

“STEER is the result of a true team effort by faculty, staff and administrators drawn broadly from throughout the University,” Meisels said. “All members of the team deserve equal credit for conducting a rigorous and time-consuming planning process that led to the success of the grant. I also applaud the team members’ commitment to continue to guide the implementation phase with the same energy, focus and enthusiasm that they showed in the planning phase. STEER demonstrates USF’s commitment to our students.”

Meisels has been a member of USF faculty since 1988 and is the director for the university’s Coalition of Science Literacy, which focuses on influencing beneficial, innovative change toward the promotion of learning in STEM fields.

The tremendous award is on the heels of USF’s recent announcement of a record breaking $440,577,680 in research grants and contracts awarded to university researchers for the 2014-15 academic year, a testament to the university’s commitment to excellence.

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