California State University, Los Angeles has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase degree completion and career readiness among students in engineering and computer science majors.
The grant is funded through the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program.
“With this grant, we’ll continue our great success in educating and preparing students for success in STEM fields,” said Cal State LA President William A. Covino. “Our graduates are diversifying STEM professions across the nation.”
The five-year grant will help launch the Culturally Adaptive Pathway to Success (CAPS) program at Cal State LA.
CAPS aims to help motivated high-achieving students, particularly those who face socioeconomic challenges, fulfill their academic goals and career potential.
“CAPS will build an inclusive pathway to accelerate the graduation of low-income, academically talented Cal State LA students majoring in civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering,” said Eun-Young Elaine Kang, the grant’s principal investigator and professor of computer science at Cal State LA. “The goal is to increase the number of highly-prepared, well-qualified students pursuing advanced degrees or entering careers in STEM.”
The CAPS program will award scholarships to rising sophomores in the University’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology who are identified for outstanding academic progress.
“We will recruit two cohorts of 14 CAPS scholars, supporting them from their sophomore years to senior years,” explained Professor Kang.
The scholars will be provided a faculty mentor, peer group support and professional development.
Every CAPS scholar will meet with a faculty advisor beginning in their sophomore year. Mentors will focus on the student’s personal, educational and professional growth.
CAPS scholars will be grouped in peer cohorts, which will help the students develop a sense of belonging and an engineering identity.
According to researchers, “Peer mentors have been shown to be effective in building communities, developing leadership skills, and increasing student retention and graduation.”
In addition, CAPS will offer professional development and experiential learning to the scholars. The program will provide a series of professional seminars to help students to build their portfolio, review their resumes, and enhance research, presentation and interview skills.
Co-investigators on the grant include Emily Allen, dean of the college; Jianyu Dong, the college’s associate dean; and Psychology Professor Matthew Jackson.
Through the CAPS program, the Cal State LA leadership team will gain a better understanding of why engineering and computer science students, in particular first-generation college students from underrepresented groups, do not graduate in four years despite good academic progress during the first year.
The research findings will help enhance the CAPS program and identify effective approaches to increase the success of students with diverse ethnical, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We are very pleased to be selected for an NSF S-STEM grant,” said Allen. “This program will enable some of our top scholars to succeed in their engineering and computer science programs, and help us to learn more about how to help all of our students be the best they can be.”