GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thomas Morse, 29, went into the workforce immediately after his high school graduation. While working at Coca-Cola, Morse became interested in the biological sciences. Morse transferred to the University of Florida from Santa Fe College and discovered he qualified for a scholarship through the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department, which also included a paid summer research internship opportunity.
Morse’s scholarship was made possible by the grant, “Florida Pathways to Success: A Research University/Minority-Serving Community College Partnership to Enhance Retention and Diversity of Transfer Students (NSF DUE 1643780).” The grant is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program.
“I’m extremely grateful for this scholarship,” Morse said. “I came from a family who didn’t have money for school. I had to wait to raise my own money for higher education. I hope others interested in the microbiology and cell science major can have the opportunity that I did. It has allowed my transition to UF and college to be smoother. Many of my burdens were taken away all at once through this scholarship.”
The Florida Pathways Transfer Student scholarships are available to transfer students majoring in microbiology and cell science in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Scholarship applicants must have an associate’s degree from a Florida public college, demonstrated financial need and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Both UF Online and on-campus students who are full-time (12-credit course load) may apply for the scholarship. The average annual scholarship award per student is $6,500 and is renewable for two academic years.
“The overall goal of the NSF S-STEM program is to increase the number of academically talented students with financial need who complete college degrees, and our specific focus is on increasing the number of transfer students who obtain their Bachelor of Science degree in STEM,” said Jennifer Drew, project principal investigator and lecturer in the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department. “Ultimately through this project, we aim to improve the education of future scientists and identify factors that affect the success and retention in STEM of low-income transfer students.”
Through a collaboration with Miami Dade College, the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department has been working for the past several years on ways to increase the accessibility of a STEM degree and broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. The partnership has resulted in an innovative hybrid online transfer program to increase the enrollment and retention of two-year students who are not able to relocate to the UF campus in Gainesville to complete their four-year degree. The state college is also a key partner on the Florida Pathways S-STEM program grant.
“The barriers to transfer student success can include financial, social and familial responsibilities,” said Alexandria Ardissone, Florida Pathways project manager and assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department. “Strengthening the transfer pathway through scholarships and other avenues should increase retention, shorten the time to earn a degree, and broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM.”
The UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department awarded its first scholarships in spring 2018 and has awarded scholarships to 51 students to date. Of these students, 66 percent are women and 36 percent are from minority groups underrepresented in STEM. The project aims to award up to 400 scholarships to eligible students through the duration of the grant
“The scholarship has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise, such as research and internship experiences,” Morse said. “Through my internship in the UF/IFAS plant molecular and cellular biology program and Cancer and Genetics Research Institute through Dr. Wilfred Vermerris’ lab at UF, I could see what it would be like to do research in a lab. I learned the important impact research has on everyday life.”
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