The College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics awarded students nearly $335,000 in scholarship money from the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program this fall.
Starting off with only 17 scholarship recipients in 2008, this year’s number has increased, as approximately 90 students were awarded.
Scholarships are first presented based on merit. The amount awarded is decided by need, where the minimum is $1,500 and the maximum $5,200.
Originally, the scholarship program was funded by grant money from the Ohio General Assembly. Now, the grant has run out, and each year the program must prove its value to be renewed.
Stephen Rodabaugh, associate dean for academic programs and outreach for STEM and head of Choose Ohio First, said the scholarship now serves as a challenge as well as an opportunity.
“Under the four years of the grant, we built the program that is now being continued on a post-grant basis, only more money,” Rodabaugh said. “Even in these hard times.”
In its early days, students did not have to apply. Seniors Samantha Rovnak and Scott Brandy never applied, but received unexpected letters of acceptance.
Rovnak, a mechanical engineering major who joined the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program her sophomore year, said it looks good on a resume and that she’s improved as a presenter during her time in Choose Ohio First. There are about 90 Youngstown State University STEM students participating in the program this year.
“If they agree to take the scholarships, then they’re agreeing to be enriched,” Rodabaugh said.
Being enriched means attending meetings with other scholarship students and working on research teams to present at multiple conferences.
“It gets good research experience and really helps you get to know what life is like as any STEM major,” Brandy said.
The program also has an outreach aspect.
YSU partners with area schools every summer to prepare students for higher levels of math through the Bridge Program. Students who have participated in the Bridge Program and qualify for the scholarship upon graduation are given preference in the application process.
For four weeks in June, qualifying students who are accepted into the Bridge Program go through math “boot camp” with YSU professors and partner teachers from their schools.
The program was recognized in spring 2011 as an Ohio STEM Demonstration Program, as the Ohio Board of Regents felt it exemplified the outreach it was seeking in awarding the grant.
One of the main focuses of the scholarship program is keeping Ohio residents studying and working in Ohio pre- and post-graduation.
Brandy said the program brings in speakers from different fields in the fall.Rodabaugh said one way to convince students to stay in the state is to set them up with valuable internships. STEM students average $14 to $22 an hour in internships.
“These firms, they view it as a bargain,” Rodabaugh said. “They view it as a really protracted interview process.”
YSU partnered with six other schools to write the grant that funded the first four years of the scholarship. Each spring, all the schools come together to showcase student projects.