Tyler Junior College

WiSTEM Grant Proposal

WiSTEM grant proposal, Dr. Betsy Ott

Dr. Betsy Ott, Life Sciences Professor at TJC, was the co-PI (co-principal investigator) on a grant proposal named WiSTEM submitted by SFA to the National Science Foundation (NSF) on December 10, 2012. While the grant was not funded due to budget limitations, the NSF review panel judged the proposal to be ‘very competitive’ and encourage resubmission for next year’s grant. Here is a synopsis from the proposal:

“In light of the poor retention rates, drop-out rates, and under-representation of females in the STEM disciplines at both SFA and TJC, WiSTEM will attack this problem and will aggressively work to cut the average percent of students at these institutions who are not retained in the STEM disciplines in half. In other words, WiSTEM will target a 16.5% increase in retention over five years. Though similar mentoring projects examined show a net increase in retention of 12%, WiSTEM is unique. The additional element of WiSTEM that combines mentoring with the engagement of students in research and outreach events creates a new dimension with respect to retention and will enhance student interest and performance.“

“The overriding vision of WiSTEM is to widen the STEM pipeline by creating unique opportunities for female STEM majors that will promote retention and facilitate entry into STEM careers. The primary goal of WiSTEM (Women in STEM) is to recruit, advance and retain female STEM majors at Stephen F. Austin State University and Tyler Junior College by engaging them in undergraduate research experiences, mentoring relationships, and career development opportunities designed to positively impact their persistence to graduation and their selection of relevant career choices germane to their disciplinary preparation.”

If funded, the WiSTEM project will involve women in the TJC STEM faculty mentoring female students in undergraduate research. While research is not a traditional undertaking in a two-year college setting, there is a growing trend in research at that level. With the TJC Honors program and the CESSE facility, TJC STEM faculty are now in a position of being able to mentor freshman and sophomore STEM majors, enriching their undergraduate education and providing them with skills and experiences that will help them in their future careers. Dr. Ott will work directly with SFA faculty in the development and execution of career development/outreach opportunities designed to recruit and retain female STEM majors and provide onsite leadership for faculty mentors at TJC. Dr. Ott will also serve as a faculty mentor. Dr. Ott has a unique experience of over 20 years of teaching, international research and leadership experience, service in organizations promoting quality instruction in undergraduate biology courses, and is an active member of the PULSE Community (a joint effort by NSF, HHMI, and NIH) to enact the Vision & Change initiative (sponsored by NSF and AAAS) to bring about major revisions in undergraduate education in Biology.