UOG awarded $2.3 million for STEM capacity-building program

Partners of the NSF INCLUDES grant program at a press conference held Sept. 19 at the University of Guam. (From left) Janet Dirige, grants officer, UOG; Claudia Taitano, secretary, Guam Science & Discovery Society; Cathleen Moore-Linn, executive director, Research Corporation of the University of Guam; Austin Shelton, principal investigator and assistant professor, UOG; Thomas W. Krise, president and professor of English, UOG; Mary Okada, president, Guam Community College; Else Demeulenaere, co-principal investigator and associate director for natural resources, UOG Center for Island Sustainability; Cheryl Sangueza, co-principal investigator and associate professor, UOG; Bastian Bentlage, co-principal investigator and assistant professor, UOG; and Alicia Aguon, dean, UOG School of Education. Photo courtesy of University of Guam.

The University of Guam has been awarded a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help grow the number and diversity of students who are interested in and eventually seek careers in STEM fields. This grant is part of the $17 million in total grant funding being managed by the University of Guam, $9 million of which is from the National Science Foundation.

The “NSF Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners in Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES): Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists Island Alliance” — or “NSF INCLUDES: SEAS Island Alliance” — is a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion, and broadening participation in STEM at scale.

The program, which builds on the success of a two-year pilot program awarded to the University of Guam in 2017, will start this November and continue for a five-year period, providing marine and environmental science opportunities for more than 95 high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and early-career professionals.

“It is very encouraging to see the inclusion of islanders in STEM valued by the National Science Foundation,” said Austin J. Shelton, principal investigator of the grant. “A true diversity of people, thoughts, and experiences is needed to solve the most pressing challenges of today. Islanders have unique perspectives and contributions to make in science. This grant provides a substantial opportunity to increase our region’s STEM capacity.”

Participants will benefit from paid scientific research experiences, faculty and near-peer mentorship, travel to present research at national conferences, family support programs, and professional development. All participants will engage in educational outreach to spread STEM awareness in the community.

A bridge program will be created for students from regional colleges in Micronesia to attend a UOG summer research experience. Undergraduates will also be able to participate in a doctoral bridge program at Pennsylvania State University.

Individuals interested in marine and environmental science from the University of Guam, Guam Community College, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands will be eligible for the program.

The new INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance is one of three new funded INCLUDES alliances. It is part of a collaborative project with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico aimed at broadening participation of islanders in STEM fields. The total funding for all alliance partners is $10 million over five years.