What STEM Means for IWU – and for Grant County

The National Science Foundation (NSF) coined the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in an effort to call attention to the need for more college graduates to be trained in those four academic disciplines.

Having sounded the call, NSF has been putting its money where its mouth is since Congress created the independent federal agency in 1950. In case you missed the announcement a few weeks ago, Indiana Wesleyan University is a recent beneficiary of NSF – and in a major way!

The NSF mission is, among other things, to promote the progress of science and to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare.  The agency has an annual budget of $7.3 billion and funds 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

IWU received a $623,337 grant from NSF for a project titled “Scholarships for Boosting the Scientific Workforce in Rural Central Indiana.” The title itself does not do the project justice.

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Here’s how the owner of a high-tech business, located just a few blocks from the IWU campus, reacted to the announcement of the grant: “This means that someday I may be able to hire the kind of people I need just down the street and keep more Grant County students in Grant County.”

Exactly. The money will be used over the next four years to provide scholarships and various support programs for 18 academically talented and financially needy IWU students to study one of the STEM-related sciences.

(IWU does not currently offer engineering degrees, but recently completed a major study that is being reviewed by our Board of Trustees. If approved, IWU could be offering degrees in electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering as early as the fall of 2018.)

The STEM scholarships will be open to all IWU students but special effort will be made to recruit minorities, women and under-represented groups in the greater Grant County area.

Almost as important as the NSF grant money alone, is the fact that IWU has joined the ranks of some of America’s top research universities. The NSF funded only 100 of 420 proposals, and IWU is the rare exception on the list of recipients as a small, private university.

It is not the first NSF grant our University has received, but it is the largest. I have the confidence in our faculty and administration to believe there will be more.

STEM – By the Numbers

science226 million: Number of STEM-related jobs in America.
20: Percent of all jobs in America that are STEM-related.
21st: Ranking of American 15-year-olds in science test scores among 34 developed nations.
30: Percent of 12th graders who took the ACT test and are ready for college-level work in science.
2.6: Average hours per week that elementary students spend on science, down from 2.9 hours a decade ago.
4.1: Percent unemployment rate for STEM occupations.
11: Number of states that allow students to count computer science courses toward graduation requirements. (Indiana is one of them.)
90: Percent of engineering jobs that will require at least a bachelor’s degree by 2022.
$79,000: Annual mean wage for engineers.
$45,900: Annual mean wage for all occupations.

Source: STEM Education Coalition