1. How are STEM CONNECT Scholarships funded?
Answer: STEM CONNECT Scholarships are funded by an S-STEM grant to UNL from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The S-STEM program was created by Federal law and must comply with policies specified in the law.
2. Which institutions are part of STEM CONNECT?
Answer: STEM CONNECT is a partnership among the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Southeast Community College (SCC) and Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC). Scholarships are available at all three institutions. Scholarships do not transfer to any other 2-year or 4-year institution.
3. When will STEM CONNECT Scholarships be awarded?
Answer: STEM CONNECT is a five-year NSF grant (October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2024). New scholarships awarded in 2021 or later years will depend on the availability of funding and lessons learned during the first year of the grant.
After Spring 2020, UNL will no longer be accepting STEM CONNECT applications for first- and second-year students. Interested students that fall into this category can apply to SCC or WNCC. Students who are awarded a scholarship at SCC or WNCC are eligible for support through the Fall of 2024, provided students satisfy eligibility requirements.
4. What is the value of a STEM CONNECT scholarship and is the scholarship renewable?
Answer: The maximum value of a STEM CONNECT scholarship is $8,000 per academic year ($4,000 per semester). This is a federally funded, need-based scholarship. Thus, the amount you can receive is limited by your financial need as determined by the U.S. Department of Education rules for need-based Federal financial aid based on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
- These rules define financial need as the Cost of Attendance (COA) for an institution minus the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) for the student. Thus, an applicant’s need will depend upon the institution they attend (UNL, SCC, or WNCC) because of the COA at each institution.
It is also important to note that if you are receiving other financial support, the amount of the scholarship may be limited by your institution’s policies. Scholarships can be renewed through Fall 2024 as long as recipients maintain eligibility and meet the requirements of the STEM CONNECT program. Students who are first awarded a STEM CONNECT scholarship at SCC or WNCC can receive up to two years of support at their community college. Depending upon the availability of funds, students may be eligible for additional years of support if they transfer to UNL.
5. How do I know if I’m eligible for a STEM CONNECT Scholarship?
Answer: In order to be eligible for a STEM CONNECT Scholarship, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen, national (as defined in section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), alien admitted as refugees under section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. Please note that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals are ineligible for support from this solicitation unless they meet the requirements listed in the first sentence of this bullet.
- Undergraduate status: You must have begun college as a first-year student between Fall 2021 and Fall 2022 OR have no more than 30 credits applicable to a STEM major.
- Majors: You must enroll in the Academic Transfer program intending to pursue a STEM focused academic program with the goal of transferring to a four-year college to complete their studies, OR
- Be pursuing a two-year degree that will lead to opportunities for employment as a member of the skilled technical workforce, AND agree to take mathematics or computer science courses that will strengthen your preparation for a career in a STEM field. Note: SCC students interested in Health (e.g., nursing, medicine) are not eligible.
6. What are the selection criteria?
Answer: After confirming applicants’ eligibility based on the above criteria, the Scholarship Selection Committee on each campus will focus on demonstrated academic ability or potential.
Your personal statement is viewed as an important part of the information that will be considered. In addition, each Scholarship Selection Committee will have access to the information you make available when you apply for admission and scholarship consideration as well as your collegiate academic record if you are a current student at UNL, SCC or WNCC.
Consistent with NSF’s desire to diversify the Nation’s STEM workforce by identifying and supporting talent from all of the Nation’s communities, the Scholarship Selection Committee will select a diverse pool of scholarship recipients that include:
- Rural as well as urban/suburban students;
- Women as well as men;
- Students from minority populations underrepresented in STEM as well as students from majority populations; and
- First generation students (defined as neither parent nor guardian having earned a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution).
7. What are the expectations for STEM CONNECT Scholars?
Answer: Students must continue to meet the Federal S-STEM requirements such as citizenship and being a full time or half time student pursuing a STEM degree. In addition, the STEM CONNECT program is a program for undergraduates. While UNL students must be majoring in computer science, computer engineering, mathematics or software engineering at the time they are awarded a STEM CONNECT Scholarship, they may continue in the program if they meet the program requirements listed below but switch to a different STEM major.
- Need – Each year you will need to complete and file a new FAFSA form which will be used to determine your financial need. Occasionally, a student who receives a need based scholarship one year may find that their need as determined by the FAFSA drops to $0 in a subsequent year. If this happens, we will no longer be able to offer the scholar a STEM CONNECT Scholarship. However, STEM CONNECT Scholars who feel they are benefiting from the other aspects of the program (e.g. mentoring) will be invited to continue as a STEM CONNECT Scholar but without a scholarship.
- Academic Success – By design, S-STEM is a program for low income academically talented students. Thus, it is important that STEM CONNECT Scholars commit to meeting high academic standards. In particular, STEM CONNECT Scholars are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA. At the same time, it is recognized that some students may find the transition from high school to college or a 2-year college to a 4-year college challenging. For this reason, the standard is a 2.75 GPA in the first year of college or the first year after transferring to UNL.
- Take mathematics and computer science courses – STEM CONNECT believes that in a data intensive world, knowledge of mathematics and computer science offers students a comparative advantage even if they pursue a STEM major outside of the target disciplines of computer science, computer engineering, mathematics and software engineering. Thus, each semester, STEM CONNECT Scholars are expected to take at least one mathematics or computer science course.
- STEM CONNECT Seminar – We want STEM CONNECT Scholars to create a mutually supportive community. Thus, Scholars are expected to participate in the non-credit STEM CONNECT Seminar. This twice monthly seminar will build a community of Scholars with a common identity, engage them regarding the many applications of computational thinking, inform Scholars about opportunities for internships or undergraduate research, excite them about opportunities in the STEM workforce, and offer information about applying for jobs or graduate school.
8. In addition to scholarships, what are the benefits of STEM CONNECT?
Answer: The goal of the STEM CONNECT program is to recruit, educate, and mentor cohorts of academically talented, low-income students in ways that enable them to graduate with expertise in mathematics and computer science and contribute to the STEM workforce or to pursue graduate education in a STEM field. This the program will work with scholarship recipients to provide benefits including the following:
- Community – STEM CONNECT Scholars, their mentors, and the grant’s Principal Investigators will work together to develop a community of Scholars who share an interest in learning mathematics and computer science.
- Academic Support – STEM CONNECT Scholars will be encouraged to take courses together as a community of learners. The program will support Scholars enrolled in common mathematics and computer science courses by coordinating weekly, mentor-facilitated study group sessions. The goal of these study group sessions is to support enhanced learning by giving Scholars the opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment, while also being supported by a mentor with expertise in course content.
- Mentoring – Each STEM CONNECT Scholar will have a faculty mentor in addition to staff advisers who are available to all majors. By developing a strong mentor – mentee relationship, Scholars will have faculty who are “on their side” as they progress through their college experience.
- STEM CONNECT Seminar – The STEM CONNECT Seminar discussed above will contribute to the quality of the undergraduate experience enjoyed by STEM CONNECT Scholars.
- Campus Employment – While not a requirement, mentors will help Scholars apply for campus employment. At UNL, there are many opportunities for employment in the Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science and Engineering that enhance learning by integrating work and academic studies. In particular, as they progress toward upper class status, STEM CONNECT will provide employment opportunities as a STEM CONNECT study group mentor.
- Undergraduate Research – UNL emphasizes undergraduate research opportunities with its UCARE program. Faculty mentors will encourage STEM CONNECT Scholars to apply for undergraduate research opportunities and support them with their applications.
9. How do I apply?
Answer: If you are a current student at SCC or WNCC or applying to SCC or WNCC for Fall 2022, go to this the application form.
Applications are not currently being accepted at UNL.
10. What information does the "personal statement" section of the application seek?
Answer: We want to know a bit about you and your career goals. The specific prompts are:
- What are your career goals and how do you anticipate that taking computer science and mathematics courses will contribute to your educational and career goals? (Limit 200 words.)
- Discuss an impactful experience that has helped shape you as a person. (Limit 200 words.)
- Discuss a challenge you faced and how you have worked to overcome it. (Limit 200 words.)
- Discuss your experience with leadership or service and how it impacted you and your community. (Limit 200 words.)
11. What happens if I am a STEM CONNECT Scholar and I have conflicts between courses I need to take and programs such as the STEM CONNECT Seminar?
Answer: As a STEM CONNECT Scholar, you will always be treated as an individual. Working together, you and your Faculty Mentor along with the STEM CONNECT Leadership Team will make decisions that are best for you. In particular, the STEM CONNECT Leadership Team has the right to approve any exception that is in your best interest.
12. Which majors are considered STEM Majors?
Answer: For the S-STEM Program, we must follow the language in the Congressional legislation that created the S-STEM Program. According to the S-STEM solicitation, the majors are biological sciences (except medicine and other clinical fields); physical sciences, including physics, chemistry, astronomy, and material science; mathematical sciences; computer and information sciences; geosciences; engineering; or technology areas associated with the preceding fields (e.g. biotechnology, chemical technology, engineering technology, information technology). In our correspondence with NSF, we learned that a student majoring in the College of Education and Human Sciences would not be eligible to receive a STEM CONNECT Scholarship. We believe, however, that, for example, a double major such as mathematics (in the College of Arts and Sciences) and mathematics education (in the College of Education and Human Resources) would be eligible to receive a STEM CONNECT Scholarship. When in doubt, ask us and we will get the correct answer.
13. Even with a STEM CONNECT Scholarship, I may need to work to support myself while in college. Am I permitted to have a job outside of UNL, SCC and WNCC?
Answer: Yes. However, unless your job pays very well, your faculty adviser will probably encourage you to consider campus employment. For example, working in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering while taking classes in the same building is a much more efficient way to combine work and classes. Additionally, research has shown better outcomes for students working less than 20 hours per week and those working within their field of study, so it is to your benefit to work on campus.