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: A limited number of STEM CONNECT Scholarships will be awarded beginning with the Spring 2020 semester. To be eligible, the recipient must be a first year or second year student at UNL, SCC or WNCC.
For Fall 2020, a larger number of scholarships will be awarded to students at UNL, SCC or WNCC. A priority for scholarships awarded starting in Fall 2020 will be to award scholarships to students who will be first year students at UNL, SCC or WNCC.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.
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 at UNL may be different from 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 for up to a total of four years of financial support 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 and then are eligible for two additional years of support if they transfer to UNL. If a STEM CONNECT Scholar chooses to transfer to UNL after only one year of support at SCC or WNCC, they are eligible to be supported for up to three years at 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:
- Financial need – Scholarship recipients must be low-income and demonstrate financial need as determined by their FAFSA application.
- Citizenship – You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. 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 according to NSF policy, 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;
- Demonstrated academic ability or potential
- Full-time status – Scholarship recipients must be enrolled full time at UNL, SCC or WNCC in a program leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree in a STEM discipline;
- At UNL, students must be majoring in mathematics, computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering at the time they are first awarded a STEM CONNECT Scholarship.
- At SCC and WNCC, students must be in the Academic Transfer program and must be pursuing a STEM focused program of study that will result in an associate’s degree with a STEM emphasis or transfer to a 4-year college or university prepared to pursue a STEM degree. While students are not required to commit to transferring to UNL, a student must transfer to UNL to receive a 3rd or 4th year of STEM CONNECT Scholarship support.
- In addition, scholarship recipients must commit to taking additional computer science or mathematics courses to enhance their academic program regardless of eventual degree.
- Undergraduate status – For scholarships awarded in Spring or Fall of 2020, eligibility is restricted to students who are in their first or second year of college.
6. What are the selection criteria?
Answer: After confirming applicants’ eligibility based on citizenship, financial need, full-time status, first year/second year status, and intended major, 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 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.
- The STEM CONNECT New Student Seminar – First year students at UNL will take a 1-credit seminar modeled after UNL’s emerging scholars seminar. Comparable seminars are available to students at SCC and WNCC. As SCC and WNCC students transfer to UNL, they will take a special section of the seminar designed for transfer students.
- STEM CONNECT Seminar – We want STEM CONNECT Scholars to create a mutually supportive community. Thus, after taking the New Student Seminar during their first semester, 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. Once each month, the seminar will be held jointly on all three campuses using Zoom and will feature a guest speaker on a topic of interest that connects to their interest in computational thinking.
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.
- Curriculum – Special sections of our new student seminar, two mathematics classes and two computer science courses will be offered during each scholar’s first two years of college to assist scholars in the transition to college and to build strengths in mathematics and computer science. When possible, STEM CONNECT Scholars will take these courses together as a community of learners. In subsequent semesters, careful advising will help Scholars take courses with their peers to further the development of a supportive community.
- Mentoring – Each STEM CONNECT Scholar will have a faculty mentor and a peer mentor in addition to staff advisers who are available to all majors. By developing a strong mentor – mentee relationship, Scholars will have both faculty and peers who are “on their side” as they progress through their college experience.
- STEM CONNECT Seminar – The new student seminar and 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 towards upper class status, STEM CONNECT will provide employment opportunities as a Peer Mentor or a Learning Assistant in a STEM CONNECT course.
- 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, go to the STEM CONNECT website and click on the apply link. There is a two-stage application process:
- Create an account on our application portal; and
- Once you receive an email confirming your account and you confirm your acceptance, use your username and password to access the application portal, answer four quick questions, enter your personal statement, and submit your application.
Applications are not currently being accepted at UNL.
10. What information does the personal statement 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.