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STARSS: Scholarships to Aid Rio Hondo STEM Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Vann Priest Rio Hondo College

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Vann Priest is Interim Dean of Mathematics and Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After arriving at Rio Hondo College in 2000, Dr. Priest reformed the physics curriculum to include the results of physics education research. He has incorportated aspects of the inquiry-based curricula Workshop Physics and RealTime Physics. Due to generous funding from two grants from the Department of Defense and its Instrumentation Program for Hispanic Serving Institutions, the physics labs are state-of-the-art. Dr. Priest served as Principal Investigator (PI) on one proposal and Co-PI on the other.

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Gisela Spieler-Persad Rio Hondo College

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Ryan Taylor Bronkar Rio Hondo College

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STARSS: Scholarships to Aid Rio Hondo STEM Students

The Scholarships to Aid Rio Hondo STEM Students (STARSS) provides in each academic year twenty-one scholarships to academically talented, financially needy student working to transfer to a four-year university to complete an undergraduate degree in an engineering, math, or science major. Scholarships are offered for up to three years of full-time academic study and in the first semester that the student transfers to university. A faculty committee selects the scholars based on academic ability, financial need and engagement.

These students have access to services provided by to the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) and/or TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) STEM programs. These services include the use of the MESA Center, detailed advising that allows each student to establish an educational plan, priority registration allowing students to be clustered in the same sections of mathematics and science courses, regular contact with the MESA/SSS STEM Director and the educational advisor, financial literacy education, an early alert system, and support with applications for scholarships and internships

Furthermore, STARRS students are expected to attend Academic Excellence Workshops led by student-peer facilitators to help students excel in mathematics, physics and chemistry courses, can utilize drop-in tutoring in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology in the MESA Center, have one-on-one tutoring for students who are identified by the early alert system, may attend transfer conferences, tours of four year colleges, universities, and local industry employers, and are eligible for all-expenses-paid travel to meetings of professional societies.

This program has the innovative feature that scholarship amounts are determined by the number of science and math courses in which the student enrolls during the next academic year. Applicants must show residency, be a calculus-based STEM major, show financial need, demonstrate academic merit including having a letter of recommendation, and submit an essay describing academic goals and how the scholarship will enable them to reduce the number of work hours.

As a result of this grant, STARRS students are attending full-time, working less hours at jobs, and meeting regularly with faculty mentors. In the 2014-2015 cohort, the sixteen students have spent over 5000 hours in STARSS-related activities. The students showed increased success, transfer, and graduation rates. Of the 53 students awarded transfer scholarships, 43 have transferred and are majoring in STEM; 34 have received their associate degrees.

The college, a part of the California Community College System, is a designated Hispanic Serving Institution and is uniquely positioned to support its major population of disadvantaged minority students. Three of every four students are Hispanic, and sixty percent of them are the first in their families to enroll in higher education.

Priest, V., & Spieler-Persad, G., & Bronkar, R. T. (2016, June), STARSS: Scholarships to Aid Rio Hondo STEM Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25862

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