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A meeting this summer between officials from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and community college leaders illustrates how important the federal agency views two-year colleges in preparing students for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
In June, NSF and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) convened the Broadening Impact: NSF Funded Projects at Two-Year Colleges Conference, which marked the first time NSF officials from all of the agency’s divisions and directorates held wide-ranging dialogues with several hundred community college educators who represented a variety of disciplines, technician preparation and transfer programs.
A recent conference report summarizes small-group discussions about the challenges community college educators encounter when preparing NSF grant proposals, as well as community college educators’ suggestions for areas where NSF could broaden its support.
NSF has long recognized community colleges as both the nation’s leading source of technician education and as the higher education institutions where many engineers, scientists, teachers and other STEM professionals begin their postsecondary learning.
Presentations, photos and videos from the 2011 Advanced Technological Education conference
The millions of women, minorities and low-income students who attend community colleges are another reason NSF leaders are focusing on the sector. The agency wants to build a STEM-literate workforce. Increasing the participation of populations that have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields is critical to achieving this goal.
NSF leaders at the Broadening Impact conference and at last month’s meeting of the Advanced Technological Education Principal Investigators repeatedly expressed the hope that more community college faculty will participate in the agency’s competitive grant process as applicants and reviewers. They encouraged two-year college educators to read grant solicitations for programs that match their interests and to subscribe to NSF’s free e-mail service for updates on funding opportunities.
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Educators may also nominate themselves or colleagues as reviewers by sending a resume to directors of NSF programs that interests them.
Historically, three programs have been the main sources of NSF funding to community colleges:
Other grant opportunities
NSF officials also encourage community college faculty to submit proposals for several other programs, which may receive additional funding if Congress approves the agency's budget request for fiscal 2012. They include:
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