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November 10, 2010

U.S. Department of Education Awards $5.7 Million to CCNY





CCNY Acting Provost Dan Lemons, top, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jorge Gonzalez are program directors for two grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Title V programs for Hispanic-serving institutions

Two Grants Targeting Hispanic-Serving Institutions Aim to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates and Prepare Graduate Students for Careers in Green Economy

Two grants totaling $5.7 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education will help The City College of New York improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates and prepare graduate students for careers in the green economy.  CCNY was the only mainland institution east of the Mississippi River to receive awards through the Department’s Title V programs for Hispanic-serving institutions at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

“The initiatives funded through these grants will benefit City College students for many years to come since they will enhance their success at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Dr. Daniel Lemons, CCNY acting senior vice president and provost. “As the most diverse institution where Hispanics are the largest minority group, we are proud that the Department of Education has funded these grants.”

The award for undergraduate programs, $3.2 million over five years, will support a coordinated set of initiatives designed to improve student learning and increase retention and graduation rates.  These include programs to enrich undergraduates’ quantitative and writing skills and curriculum development initiatives to create new online and hybrid course formats that will provide greater flexibility in completing graduation requirements. Provost Lemons serves as program director on the grant.

In addition, the Education Department has awarded $2.5 million over five years to support a new Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability Graduate Initiative.  This program will focus on training, retaining and graduating students underrepresented in these fields.  It consists of projects to: attract and inspire Hispanic minority students; provide training, internships and research opportunities, and offer mentorship and career guidance.
    
CCNY was one of 78 institutions nationwide that received funding in 2010 under the Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, which is intended to expand educational opportunities and improve the educational attainment of Hispanic students.  Eligible institutions must have at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment.  Approximately one-third of City College’s nearly 16,000 students self identify as Hispanics.

City College will apply the grant to improve student learning in the College’s general education curriculum by working with faculty to enhance teaching methods in required writing courses and quantitative courses.  These include the Freshman Inquiry Writing Seminar and Perspectives courses as well as the freshman quantitative courses and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) mathematics sequences.

Additionally, the College will offer faculty training and support development of fully online and hybrid courses.  This will give students greater access to courses needed to complete their graduation requirements.

These initiatives are expected to achieve several outcomes, including:
•    Improved student writing quality across the curriculum.
•    Improved students’ quantitative and analytic skills.
•    Increased first-year retention and six-year graduation rates.
•    Increased retention of students in the STEM majors.
•    Improved student access to required courses through new online course formats.

In addition to improving pedagogical standards for writing-intensive courses, the College will use the grant to increase the availability of tutoring services for students needing help with writing assignments.  It also plans to design a series of courses to strengthen non-science majors’ quantitative skills.  These will be based on CCNY’s successful Freshman Inquiry Writing Seminar model, in which senior professors and writing instructors jointly teach a topic-specific, writing-intensive six-credit course.

Grant funds will also be used to increase success and engagement in math of students majoring in STEM disciplines and to improve the quality and depth of mathematics teaching and learning.  Plans call for an online homework system for pre-calculus and engineering calculus courses and an online content base for each course so they can be taught as hybrid courses.  The College will augment services available through its Mathematics Learning Center to support such courses.

Key personnel on the project in addition to Provost Lemons include:
•    Research Associate Craig Levinsky, who will serve as project manager;
•    Professor of Psychology Robert Melara, who will serve as general education activity leader;
•    Sophia Barrett, coordinator of the freshman quantitative program;
•    Professors of Mathematics Stanley Ocken and Edward Grossman, who will serve as STEM math coordinators;
•    Bruce Rosenbloom, director of the CCNY Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, who will serve as online/hybrid course coordinator;
•    Professor of Psychology Ellen Smiley, who will serve as online/hybrid academic liaison;
•    Juan Carlos Mercado, dean of the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education, who will serve as liaison to the provost, and
•    Kathy Powell-Manning, CCNY director of assessment.

Graduate Initiative in Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability

City College was one of 21 institutions nationwide to receive funding through the Education Department’s Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program, as well as one of just 10 schools funded through both programs.  Targeted toward graduate schools, this program supports outreach programs, academic support services, purchasing library materials and technology upgrades, classroom renovations, faculty exchanges and collaborations with other institutions.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for City College,” said Dr. Jorge González, professor of mechanical engineering in the Grove School of Engineering, who serves as program director for the graduate education initiative. “It will enable us to build upon strengths in pillar areas for scholarly work while creating opportunities for students from underrepresented groups to train for careers in high-demand fields.”

Earlier this year, City College launched a unique, interdisciplinary masters program, Sustainability in the Urban Environment, which combines coursework in the sciences, engineering and architecture.  In addition, CCNY is the lead institution for the NOAA-CREST Center, a consortium for environmental remote sensing of seven institutions in the Northeast and Puerto Rico.

Demand for skilled workers in the earth sciences and environmental sustainability is growing due to heightened interest in protecting the environment, understanding the implications of climate change and meeting the need for sustainable energy and water policies. New York State employers, in both public and private sectors, are expected to create 25,000 new jobs in green energy technologies by 2025.

However, Hispanics are underrepresented in the earth sciences and environmental sustainability disciplines, currently earning fewer than five percent of graduate degrees, according to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.  CCNY’s graduate initiative is intended to address this disparity through programs to help students overcome obstacles at all stages of their graduate school careers.

Among the program elements are:
•    An outreach program to generate awareness among prospective students of the importance of earth science and environmental sustainability topics and increase their interest in graduate study in the field.
•    A summer bridge program to ease the transition from undergraduate to graduate studies and increase student retention.
•    Expanded mentorship opportunities through a formal mentoring program involving senior graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, professors and professionals in the field.
•    Updated curricula and academic offerings and increased involvement with state-of-the-art research projects to improve the quality of the graduate experience.
•    Scientific seminars, career workshops and student internships with relevant employers to increase students’ marketability after completing their degrees.
•    The summer exploration program where students visit one of the partner institutions and work with a senior scientist on research projects of their interest.
 
According to Professor González, approximately 200 graduate students will be engaged in the program when it is fully operational.  He also expects it to double the number of minority graduate students at City College in the earth science and environmental sustainability fields.  

In addition to Professor González, the project will be governed by an internal executive committee that also includes: Dr. Latif M. Jiji, Herbert G. Kayser Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Karin A. Block, Assistant Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Dr. Reza Khanbilvardi, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the NOAA-CREST Center.  Dr. Yajaira Mejia is project administrator.

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