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“One of our goals is to attract more students by letting them explore

W

ith this goal in mind, the center is taking a leadership role in numerous programs and initiatives:

the joys and opportunities

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Southern a $600,000 grant for the creation of a Pathways to Academic Excellence (PAcE) program, in which 26 outstanding high school and community college students wishing to pursue the study of math, computer science, biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science will receive full four-year scholarships to Southern. The first group of students will be selected for the start of the 2011-12 academic year.

they may find by pursuing these fields.” — Lara Smetana, assistant professor of elementary education

The NSF selected Southern as a pilot site for the Family Engineering Program, which is designed to spark interest among elementary school students in engineering, as well as science- and math-related fields. The university’s Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science is coordinating the program in the area. During the spring semester, Southern education, math, and science students traveled to schools in the Greater New Haven area to coordinate fun, hands-on activities for school-age students and their parents. The center has created the Southern Women in Mathematics and Science (SWIMS) program to provide support for those interested in these fields. Women have traditionally been underrepresented in math and science. The program includes mentoring, guest speakers, activities, and recognition opportunities to spotlight student success stories. Joseph Fields, associate professor of mathematics and a PAcE coordinator, is optimistic in the long-term positive impact of the center. “I believe offering full scholarships to outstanding students might be the impetus for them to opt for a degree in math and science and to decide to attend Southern,” Fields says. “One of the strengths of the program will be to offer these students any mentoring they may need.” Smetana, who previously taught at the University of Virginia and is a former eighthgrade physical science teacher, says the center will seek to breakdown psychological, cultural, and social barriers to pursuing math and science. “For a variety of reasons, some students just don’t believe they can excel in these two subjects,” Smetana says. “In some cases, it’s because of a gender stereotype. In some cases, it’s an issue of limited access to strong role models, supportive environments, and post-graduate opportunities. In other cases, it’s just a psychological hurdle that might have been generated from a bad past experience in a math or science class. One of our aims is to help students remove these hurdles and allow them to develop their potential.” n

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Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2010  
Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2010  

A magazine for alumni and friends of Southern Connecticut State University