By: Claire Caton
Many students at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) are the first in their families to attend college, making adjustment to higher education challenging at best. With minimal guidance and mentoring, these same students often find entry into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields too daunting an endeavor to even consider.
With a new $200,000 grant from the Brown Foundation to expand programmatic support for UHD’s Scholars Academy, freshmen, sophomores and transfer students in the program will have the benefit of early undergraduate research opportunities, summer career workshops to hone soft skills and other faculty-to-student support options essential for success.
The Brown Foundation, a long-standing partner of UHD, played an instrumental role in the development of Scholars Academy – composed of approximately 160 STEM majors – through its $900,000 grant to the University in 2007. Along with a subsequent $100,000 grant from the Foundation in 2009, these funds provided critical support to fund administrative positions, scholarships and programmatic components of the Academy in its early development.
Scholars Academy student support includes scholarships based on need and ability to meet high academic standards, as well as an assigned peer mentor group and a faculty mentor who provides college and career guidance. These students also participate in broadening experiences, such as seminars and field trips to medical institutions and industry sites, as well as competitive internships at top national universities and STEM-related companies.
“The Brown Foundation has played a foundational role in the growth of Scholars Academy and in the individual lives of thousands of students since our first collaboration in 2007,” said Mary Jo Parker, Ed.D., director of Scholars Academy. “We are so excited to receive this recent grant, which will significantly enhance our program. Now we can provide students with earlier skill building and career soft skills, early research with faculty and enhanced graduate school preparation. Each of these high-impact experiences will play a key role in their graduation from college and entry into their chosen STEM careers.
“UHD, Scholars Academy and the Brown Foundation place the advancement of Houston as essential to their mission,” said Parker. “We are proud to partner with the Foundation once again to support the success of our science and math undergraduates.”