White House honors Grinnell Science Project

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

The Grinnell Science Project at Grinnell College was recognized by the White House today with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award, administered by the National Science Foundation, is given annually to individuals and organizations that have enabled a substantial number of underrepresented students to pursue and complete science degree programs. Awardees receive a $10,000 grant to continue and advance their mentoring work.

The Grinnell Science Project was created in 1992 in response to internal studies indicating that students from traditionally underrepresented groups often entered the college with interest in science but abandoned their goals when they were unsuccessful in introductory courses. The project addresses barriers to success with a pre-orientation program and strong mentoring throughout students’ undergraduate careers by science faculty and student peers.

“The true winners of this prestigious award are our science students,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. “The reputation of the Grinnell Science Project has been strengthened by their individual successes, and collectively by the dedicated Grinnell science faculty who mentor them.”

Outcomes of the Grinnell Science Project include:

• A triple-digit increase in the number of students of color and a two-fold increase in women science majors between 1992 and 2008.

• More than 500 students who participated in the pre-orientation program earned higher average grades than those who did not participate.

• Newly designed classrooms that encourage teamwork and a sense of community, and flexible lab spaces that support research opportunities beginning with the first semester.

• A model for other colleges and universities validated by grant support from the Lilly Endowment, GTE Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

“The biggest measure of success is that components of the Grinnell Science Project are now mainstream throughout our science curriculum,” said Jim Swartz, director of the college’s Center for Science in the Liberal Arts. “Grinnell students feel that they are part of a scientific community, we accommodate different learning styles with different pedagogical approaches, and we involve students in faculty research from the beginning of their experience here.”

With involvement from all science faculty, curriculum development, community building activities, and mentoring, the Grinnell program also addresses the need for increased diversity in the science and engineering workforce. Approximately one-third of Grinnell students graduate with a major in science, and nearly 70 percent enter into some of the top graduate programs in the country. Grinnell ranks eighth on a national per capita basis among all U.S. colleges and universities in producing science graduates who later earn Ph.D.s; in chemistry (6th nationally); in biological sciences (9th); in psychology (9th); and physics (20th).

More information about the Grinnell Science Project is available from the Grinnell website athttp://www.grinnell.edu/academic/divisions/science/gsp/.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.