UCA Chemistry Department awarded $650K for scholarship, student support program

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CONWAY, Ark. (News Release) — The University of Central Arkansas Department of Chemistry was awarded a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program to establish a program to attract, support and retain low-income chemistry majors from diverse backgrounds. 

Faith Yarberry, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, is the principal investigator for the project “Fostering a Diverse Community of Future Chemists Through Scholarship Support, Peer Instruction, Mentoring, and Professional Development.” The project includes the creation of the ATOM (Arkansas Talented, Optimistic, Motivated) Scholars program, which will annually award scholarships of up to $10,000 to at least 10 UCA chemistry students who are Pell Grant eligible. The program will also provide supplemental instruction in underclassmen chemistry courses and a mentoring program.

Co-investigators on the project include Patrick Desrochers, chair of the Department of Chemistry; Makenzie Long and Marsha D. Massey, assistant professors of chemistry; Michelle B. Buchanan, STEMteach master teacher in the Department of Teaching and Learning; and Darshon Anderson, assistant professor of psychology. The program is scheduled to operate for five years. 

“UCA’s Department of Chemistry is very unique in its composition. This grant, especially in the state of Arkansas, will increase the diversity of the individuals graduating with degrees in chemistry,” Yarberry said. “The grant is expected to not only impact the student, it will also impact the communities in which that student lives because when individuals see someone like themselves being successful within a field, they then can see themselves being successful.”

ATOM scholars will be enrolled in courses that include a required recitation led by undergraduate supplemental instructors. The program’s mentorship component, called Mentorship Circle, will be led by faculty members and include a sophomore, junior and senior mentoring an ATOM Scholar during their freshman year. The mentorship program will cover topics such as preparing for job interviews, applying for research opportunities and more. 

“The faculty who put this grant together worked on this grant for the better part of a year. The organization and the way they approached it, they had goals,” said Desrochers. “It’s what can happen when you have motivated, intelligent, hardworking people.”

The grant award begins May 1, 2020, and ends April 30, 2025. This project is supported by the National Science Foundation, through the Division of Undergraduate Education and the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (S-STEM) program, under Grant No. 1930026.

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