Dordt faculty member receives $649,947 grant from NSF

National Science Foundation (NSF) awards grant for undergraduate retention

Dordt University’s Dr. Manuela A.A. Ayee, assistant professor of engineering, has been awarded a $649,947 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), for her project entitled “Retention of Undergraduates in STEM: Reducing Barriers to Success in Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science.”

“The primary goal of this research is two-fold,” says Ayee. “First, to advance the understanding of barriers to retaining academically talented, low-income students in STEM disciplines, and, second, to develop interventions that diminish these barriers and enable them to successfully enter the STEM work force when they are done with Dordt or go on to graduate school.

Ayee and other Dordt faculty members will implement identity-building experiences by creating cohorts and by introducing new curriculur pathways. Some of those cohort identity-building experiences will include peer mentoring, workshops, and partnerships with local businesses such as Interstates, Link Manufacturing, Civco Radiotherapy, and Engineering Design Associates (EDA).

Ayee and others involved in the project predict that these initiatives will result in:

  • Increased retention of first-year engineering, mathematics, and computer science students
  • Improved overall STEM graduation rates
  • Continued high, post-degree STEM job placement and graduate study rates
  • The development of six new pathways into STEM four-year major programs
  • A sustainable approach to directly assess factors contributing to STEM student success

This project will also use the grant to award $410,000 in STEM scholarships and $10,000 for these scholars to attend conferences within their discipline.

“Dr. Ayee’s project is not only going to directly benefit many Dordt students through additional scholarship money, it is also going to have a wide-ranging impact on Dordt students through enhanced programming for all students and shows continued investment from the National Science Foundation in our excellent STEM programs at Dordt,” says Dr. Nathan Tintle, director for research and scholarship at Dordt.

Ayee is passionate about the project and believes it will be great for the Dordt community and for the students involved.

“I was a traditionally underrepresented student in STEM, being a woman and a racial minority,” says Ayee. “I had a lot of support going through my education, especially from my family—something many people don’t have. I’d like to create a supportive space at Dordt for those who need it—to stand in the gap for students who feel called to work in STEM.”

The award starts September 1, 2019, and ends August 31, 2024.