Moraine Park receives STEM grant from National Science Foundation

by admin20. October 2008 19:00

By 2010, employment in science- and engineering-related occupations is expected to increase about three times faster than the growth rate for all occupations, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


To help meet industry needs and to encourage students who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), Moraine Park Technical College was awarded a $520,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

 Moraine Park's STEM program director, Lisa Pollard, is shown here.

Through the STEM grant, Moraine Park’s Fostering Engineering and IT (Information Technology) Careers scholarship program will provide more than $400,000 in scholarships to cover student costs such as tuition, books, transportation and living expenses. Starting with the fall 2009 semester up to 30 scholarships will be awarded to full-time STEM students annually, based on financial need and ranging from $500 to $10,000, through July 31, 2013.


“We are excited to receive this National Science Foundation grant – a first for Moraine Park – which acknowledges the efforts of our college to support students who are interested in pursuing STEM degrees and careers,” said Dr. Gayle Hytrek, Moraine Park president.


IT faculty member Lisa Pollard is leading the College’s STEM program. “A unique aspect of the program is that students who might not meet one of the academic requirements will be given an opportunity to demonstrate during a semester that they can meet the academic standards required for a full scholarship,” she said.


Students entering or enrolled in Moraine Park STEM programs are eligible to apply. The nine programs are as follows: Engine Research and Development Technician; Mechanical Design Technology; Tool Design Engineering Technology; Civil Engineering Technician – Structural; Engineering Technologist; IT – Applications Developer; IT – Network Specialist; IT – Technical Support Specialist; and Water Quality Technician.


Moraine Park has developed a three-tier approach to scholarship awards: STEM Gold Scholars (students who meet all of the requirements), STEM Silver Scholars (students who meet the financial need but need assistance to meet the academic requirement), and STEM Scholars on the Move (students who transfer to a four-year college program).


In addition to the STEM scholarship, Moraine Park will offer tutoring, study groups, online STEM advising, an online STEM Club and mentoring, as well as other support services. The College also provides real-world experience, job shadowing and placement to help prepare students for life on the job. 


A variety of careers are available to STEM graduates. For example, an IT – Applications Developer graduate may find work as a computer or systems programmer, systems analyst, database manager or project manager. An IT – Network Specialist graduate can become a network specialist, designer or manager. A Civil Engineering Technician graduate may become a drafter, construction estimator, architectural technician or designer, public utility technician, engineering technician or instruction inspector. With a Mechanical Design Technology degree, one can be a mechanical designer, CAD detailer/operator, design technician or detail drafter.


More opportunities are possible with additional work experience or education. STEM students who intend to transfer or pursue a four-year degree after graduating from Moraine Park also can receive scholarships. Studies show that, for all degree fields in science and engineering, 44 percent of recent recipients of bachelor's and master's degrees took at least one community college course.


STEM fields typically offer good salaries. Moraine Park’s 2006-07 Graduate Follow-Up Report surveyed alumni six months after graduation who were working in program-related occupations at least 35 hours per week. Engineering Technologist graduates were making $27,038 to $42,117. IT – Network Specialist graduates had a yearly salary range of $30,000 to $45,569. Tool Design Engineering Technology (formerly Tool and Die Designer) alumni reported salaries ranging from $24,000 to $58,496, while Water Quality Technician grads were paid $43,000 to $59,795 annually.


Women and minorities are encouraged to apply for a STEM grant as they are underrepresented in STEM degrees and careers.


“Our female students will be part of the virtual STEM club we offer all of our STEM learners, with myself as the club advisor, and have opportunities to work with the nontraditional careers specialist for mentoring and peer support,” said Pollard, who will also serve as a faculty mentor. Moraine Park also has a Diversity Relations office to serve students from various racial and cultural backgrounds.


For more information about the STEM scholarships and programs, contact Pollard at 920-924-3352 or