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Miami University receives money for students in STEM

The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) awarded Miami University more than $600,000 to support minority students pursuing a major or minor in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) related field.

ODHE granted Miami on behalf of their Choose Ohio First (COF) Program. COF is a competitive scholarship designed to sustain Ohio’s competitiveness within STEM education. The scholarship supports undergraduate and graduate students in innovative academic programs. Miami has been awarded $588,000 for a new cohort of COF students and $105,000 to support existing COF scholars for a total of $693,000.

John Magill, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Advancement at ODHE, thought Miami would be a successful candidate for the grant because of previous success with another COF program.

“Miami University is continuing to build on its previous COF grants to help develop a STEM talent pipeline with an engineering focus to benefit economic growth in Southwest Ohio and across the state,”  Magill wrote in an email to The Miami Student.  

Fazeel Khan and Kumar Singh, professors in Miami’s department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering, presented a grant proposal to ODHE in December 2020.

“We submitted our ideas that we would like to recruit more students in engineering,” Singh said. “We would like to recruit underrepresented students in these areas because engineering as, you know, we have less diversity.”

The COF grant will go towards a scholarship for engineering students who are interested in Miami’s Industry 4.0 initiative, part of Miami’s Boldly Creative Project. The students eligible for the scholarship will be based on academic background, financial need and interest in the Industry 4.0 initiative. 

“There are several aspects in the application process which we are looking at to try to have a holistic view of the applicant to evaluate that they should be offered a scholarship,” Singh said.

Applications for the scholarship have already been sent out to incoming students who have expressed an interest in engineering and were selected by the admissions office. 

In addition to incoming students, upperclassmen and graduate students can also apply for the scholarship, but per ODHE’s guidelines, only upperclassmen who are transfer students can apply. Applications for upperclassmen and graduate students will open this summer. 

Marguerite Smith, a first-year electrical engineering major, hopes this scholarship will help diversify Miami’s engineering program but wishes it would address barriers to entry into STEM other than money.

“I don’t know if the grant changes everything,” Smith said. “I guess I wish it would, but I don’t think money is the only thing holding people back from going into STEM. I think there’s a societal issue that’s a part of that.”

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At Miami, Smith is the treasurer for the Society of Women Engineers. She is also the only girl in one of her engineering classes.

“It’s been really great to have a supportive group of other girls who are doing the same things as me, but it’s still tough when people don’t recognize that,” Smith said.

Carly Wagoner is a first-year mechanical engineering and engineering management double major. As a woman in STEM, she struggles with apprehension, and she hopes rewarding minority students will help them feel assured in their major.

“[This scholarship] is important because it kind of builds your confidence,” Wagoner said. “It makes you feel like you're supposed to be doing this and making a difference in the future and helping more people join this field.”

Wagoner hopes this scholarship will not only be a gateway for female engineers but students of color as well.

“I think it could help get more minorities in STEM because obviously college is very expensive, and I think minorities can sometimes be afraid to go into a field where they know they're a minority,” Wagoner said. “So they might tend to go towards some other field even though engineering might be the best fit for them.”

About five to seven students will benefit from this scholarship, and they will be supported by it throughout their four years at Miami as long as they remain a good academic standing. Because it is under the COF initiative, the grant will only be awarded to in-state students, but Singh and Khan hope to spark a movement beyond a scholarship.

“Our hope is that we want more and more students in engineering, we want more and more diversity amongst students,” Singh said. “So that they can benefit not only Ohio but nationwide.”