2018-19 Annual Report

Grant to bolster STEM efforts at UWF

A five-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will enhance and expand science, technology, engineering and math courses at the University of West Florida.

The grant, which was awarded to the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, will provide funding to purchase new technology and equipment, renovate and build laboratory space and hire additional staff who will help ensure student success in STEM courses. The enhanced curriculum is designed to improve student retention and produce more STEM graduates.

“This grant will bring us an infusion of funds to purchase new instrumentation. We will be able to expose students at a much earlier point in their educational career to some advanced instrumentation used in chemistry,” said Dr. Pamela Benz, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, who will oversee some of the grant-funded initiatives.

Similar upgrades are slated for laboratories in the physics and biology departments, Benz said.

Among the new staff that will be hired through the grant will be an academic coach dedicated to student success in STEM courses by helping students learn effective study skills and time management. A data analyst will also be hired to assess the effectiveness of the enhancements made to STEM courses. Other positions will include a curriculum specialist and a STEM academic support specialist.

The renovations will include the building of STEM Success Studios, where students can receive supplemental instruction in smaller groups than in regular classroom settings.

“Success Studios will provide high-tech facilities where students can participate in these workshops,” Benz said.

The upgrades will help give students unique, hands-on, high-impact experiences to help further their academic careers, Benz said.

“The idea is to give them earlier exposure to the type of technologies used in these disciplines,” Benz said. “This also gives them kind of an entryway — or preview — into what research is going to be like in their field.”

The planned enhancements to STEM courses outlined in the grant application include course curriculum redesign, which will be done in consultation with faculty in the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering. Combined with other recent funding awards from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, UWF’s Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering has earned competitive awards totaling more than $5 million to address STEM education in the past five years.