NSF grant funds STEM scholarships for 40 UNG students, including 2 from local area

These students are STEMS Program scholarship recipients at UNG’s Gainesville Campus. Contributed photo

DAHLONEGA, GA (04/05/2024)– Forty University of North Georgia (UNG) students in STEM degree programs are now receiving up to $10,000 per academic year in scholarships thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Students can be in the program for up to eight semesters, with the possibility of a total of $40,000 in scholarship money by graduation.

In addition to the financial backing for these students’ university studies, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholars (STEMS) Program aims to assist STEM majors in non-clinical/healthcare fields in completing their degree by providing research-based support practices, including:

  • A first-year STEM Success Seminar course.
  • Career path assistance.
  • Opportunities for undergraduate research involvement.
  • Faculty mentoring.
  • Professional development.
  • Internship and graduate school opportunities.

One of the main goals of the STEMS Program is to allow students to realize the array of career options they will have.

“STEM fields are incredibly diverse, and the opportunities are amazing,” Dr. Natalie Hyslop, a professor of biology and principal investigator for the grant who leads the program at UNG’s Gainesville Campus, said. “They are some of the fastest-growing fields in the country.”

These students are STEMS Program scholarship recipients at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. Contributed photo

Rayya Abdullah, a freshman pursuing a degree in biology with pre-veterinary medicine academic advisement, is grateful to be involved with the program.

“We have a sense of community. We are not alone,” Abdullah said. “This whole program is a major relief. It feels like a whole bunch of bricks fell off my shoulder, and I don’t have to worry as much.”

Jiselle Gonzalez, a senior pursuing a degree in biology, is financially independent and previously had to take one or two courses per semester because she was working full time. She has been able to cut back to part-time work so she can focus more on her studies.

“The financial aspect is a huge life-changer. Before this, I feel like I was blindly going through college,” Gonzalez said. “It’s providing me new opportunities to be involved on campus.”

Giancarlo Mendez Ibarra, a freshman pursuing a degree in physics, said the STEM Success Seminar was a great introduction to the rigors of college. He added that the STEMS Program is providing him with other helpful advice as he moves through school and prepares for his career. The scholarship is helping him study physics, which his father wanted to pursue but was unable to.

“I want to continue the dream that he couldn’t,” Mendez Ibarra said.

Makenna Maroney, a junior pursuing a degree in biology, also pointed to the financial and career preparation aspects as vital portions of the STEMS Program.

“They guide us and are so willing to help students figure out what we want to do. They help us find people who can advance our careers,” Maroney said. “I would highly recommend applying for this scholarship.”

Dr. John Holliday, professor of mathematics, grant co-principal investigator and lead for the program at the Dahlonega Campus, said he’s grateful for the connections students are able to make and how the scholarship allows them to focus more on their studies.

“A lot of them at this point are realizing the importance of undergraduate research, but many of them don’t know how to get started,” Holliday said. “They will be able to find opportunities for research. Mentors will help them decide on a topic they’re most interested in.”

Dr. April Nelms, associate dean and professor in the College of Education; Dr. John Leyba, dean of the College of Science & Mathematics; and Dr. Linda Purvis, associate professor of biology, are also co-principal investigators for the NSF grant.

The initial STEMS Scholarship recipients are: Rayya Abdullah, Hunter Acker, Helen Adams, Livia Adams, Mariela Alvarado Gonzalez, Kaden Armstrong, Trent Barnick, Chris Buckley, Hanna Busche, Micah Chandler, Adrian Dan, Spencer Daniel, Behrgen Fletcher, Alexandra Frusina, Dennis Garcia, Clarisa Garcia Galvan, Jiselle Gonzalez, Michael Guerrero, Guadalupe Guzman, Erika Guzman-Cantellano, Caroline Ivester, Shae Jolivette, Savannah Jones, Max Kluttz, Grace Knowles, George Maris, Makenna Maroney, Kadan Martin, Giancarolo Mendez Ibarra, Luke Millaway, Katie Mills, Bryson Mori, Mariam Rezai, Caitlyn Saline, Cory Scarborough, Maria Soto, Janelyiz Tejada, Leslea Tilley, Daisy Vu, and Albany Zavarce Angulo.

Scarborough is from Monroe.

Soto is from Loganville.

Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, the University of North Georgia comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia. With more than 18,000 students, the University of North Georgia is one of the state’s largest public universities. The university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to doctoral programs.

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