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Alverno College has been awarded a $499,983 grant from the National Science Foundation to launch and support the college’s Truchan STEM Community Impact Program, which is designed to improve student retention in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math and educate women to succeed in these in-demand careers.
The goal of the grant, which is part of the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program, is to enhance STEM education and broaden participation in the field by women and women of color as they explore the ways that STEM benefits their communities. The project will engage 400 Alverno students over five years enrolled in STEM courses, underpinning a key priority of Alverno’s strategic plan.
“Data suggests that women who enter STEM fields are often motivated to pursue STEM careers that work toward communal goals and helping others,” said Angela Frey, Ph.D., chair of Alverno’s STEM program and a professor of biology. “We know that women, particularly women of color, are underrepresented in STEM fields. This grant will help us connect students to their professional and social communities, bolster student success, and improve retention, graduation and entry into STEM careers.”
In 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau, women made up only 27% of individuals employed in STEM fields. The gap is wider for women of color. Catalyst.com reports that in 2017, Asian, African American and Latina women made up only 11.5% of working scientists and engineers in the United States.
The Truchan STEM Community Impact Program is named for Sister Leona Truchan, who taught biology at the college for nearly 50 years. It will directly support Alverno’s efforts to grow enrollment in strategic areas by:
- Engaging STEM students in enhanced introductory and capstone community service experiences
- Expanding STEM-specific peer mentoring to all students majoring in STEM fields
- Establishing a STEM Family Forum aimed at helping students, families and the program to better align STEM education and career options with community needs
- Establish a professional mentorship network between STEM students and alumnae
- Supporting faculty development on culturally responsive pedagogy
Frey is the program’s principal investigator. Mikelene Ray, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, Jennifer Johanson, Ph.D., professor of physical sciences, and Megan Anderson, assistant director of Alverno’s internship program, are co-principal investigators.
The Truchan STEM Community Impact Program will complement two other grant-funded programs at Alverno. The National Science Foundation S-STEM grant is designed to help high-achieving, low-income women graduate with a degree in a STEM discipline, and the USDA Hispanic Serving Institution Education grant supported the college’s efforts to build a campus greenhouse that will house an aquaponics facility.
The greenhouse, built in partnership with the A. O. Smith Foundation, provides opportunities to recruit, retain and graduate women in a wide variety of STEM majors. Hundreds of undergraduate students, as well as area high school students, will receive hands-on experience in preparation for careers in the food, agricultural, natural resources and human sciences industries. To learn more about the greenhouse visit
About Alverno College
Founded in 1887 by the School Sisters of St. Francis, Alverno College promotes the academic, personal and professional development of its students in a collaborative and inclusive environment. Undergraduate programs for women are offered in more than 60 areas of study, and graduate programs in education, nursing, community psychology, school psychology, music therapy, music and liturgy, and business are open to women and men.
A leader in higher education innovation, Alverno has earned international accolades for its highly effective ability-based, assessment-as-learning approach to education, which emphasizes hands-on experience and develops in-demand skills. The college, Wisconsin’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution, ranks among the top schools in the Midwest for its commitment to undergraduate teaching and innovation by U.S. News & World Report. For the past two years, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education named Alverno the country’s most inspiring college.
Based in Milwaukee, Wis., Alverno College is a four-year independent, Catholic, liberal arts college.