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NSF grant will fund computer science and math scholarships at Appalachian

BOONE—The National Science Foundation has awarded a $620,000 four-year grant to Appalachian State University to support the High Achievers Scholarship Program in computer science and mathematics.

Professor Rahman Tashakkori is the lead administrator of the grant. Other faculty members involved in the program are professors James Wilkes, Cindy Norris, Mark Ginn, Eric Marland and Alan Utter and associate professors Vicky Klima, and Mary-Beth Searcy.

Incoming and currently enrolled freshmen who plan to major in computer science, mathematics or statistics may apply for the scholarship. Incoming graduate students and currently enrolled juniors and seniors who commit to attending graduate school at Appalachian also may apply. Recipients must also meet specific financial need and academic requirements.

Students awarded the scholarship will receive $6,280 for up to four years. They also will receive mentoring from faculty and other students, attend weekly seminars, be part of study groups for core courses, participate in a leadership workshop series, and benefit from other academic and personal development support.

Klima said characteristics of high-achieving students in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and the Department of Computer Science include academic performance as well as a willingness be involved in and outside the classroom, such as helping younger students succeed, presenting at conferences and considering graduate school.

“I think this kind of program really makes a difference in students’ lives,” Klima said. “It will mean many of the scholarship recipients won’t need to get a job or even a second job to help pay for college, allowing them to be successful in a way they might not be without the scholarship support.”

Tashakkori expects to award 16 scholarships beginning spring 2014. He said the success of similar programs at Appalachian in the past led him to seek funding for the High Achievers Scholarship Program. Those programs had a much higher student retention and graduation rates than the overall student population and helped establish a mentoring community between students as well as students and faculty in the computer science and mathematics departments.

“When we first started our early scholarship programs, the focus was on how to help students be successful in their courses through tutoring and building study groups, and we still do that,” said Ginn, who chairs the Department of Mathematical Sciences. “We now have added an emphasis on alumni mentoring, networking opportunities, leadership workshops and resume writing to help students plan where they are going after they graduate from Appalachian.”

Graduates in computer science, math and statistics remain in high demand, according to Norris. “More than seventy percent of our previous S-STEM/CSEMS graduates begin their careers in North Carolina,” she said.

For more information about the scholarship, visit http://cs.appstate.edu/sstem.

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