Jacksonville University has been awarded a $625,273 grant from the National Science Foundation that will cement the university’s status as an institution of higher education offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree programs. The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” It accounts for about 20 percent of federal support to academic institutions for research. JU’s award period is July 15, 2014, to June 30, 2019. 

“NSF grants are prestigious and highly competitive,” says JU Provost/Chief Academic Officer Dr. Wenying Xu. “Our faculty’s success in obtaining an NSF STEM grant thrusts JU into the national scene of STEM education.” A portion of the grant creates 14 annual scholarships of up to $10,000 each for qualified students and also will be used to build a comprehensive support system that sets them up for lifelong success as leaders in the community and beyond. In addition to the annual scholarships, Jacksonville University students will be aided by development of a Residential Learning Community, faculty mentors, tutoring, peer study groups, skills training and career development. Students also take part in an annual national mathematical modeling competition, undergraduate research and internships with local government and industry partners. 

The NSF grant also supports ASPIRE, JU’s $120 million comprehensive campaign designed to enhance the JU student experience with academic, programmatic, and facilities upgrades, Dr. Xu says. It also complements the University’s recently announced Florida Entrepreneurial, Policy and Innovation Center (EPIC), which is expected to boost economic development in Florida through a collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach among universities, business interests, governmental organizations, venture capitalists, and the military. 

JU biology Prof. Lee Ann Clements, Ph.D., chair of the university’s Division of Science and Mathematics, says the NSF was impressed by the university’s innovative, multi-pronged, and integrated support approach to its program. “This is about building a robust learning community structure, with students benefitting from taking overlapping courses as a group and receiving social and academic support,” she says. “We know there’s a high demand for students trained in these areas, so it’s an opportunity to help Northeast Florida, our students, and JU, all in one project.”