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EWU Awarded Prestigious Grant

Published: April 14, 2014

CHENEY, Wash. - Eastern Washington University's College of Science, Health and Engineering has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) for a five-year project to help first-generation and underrepresented students excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The project, S-STEM: Increasing the Participation of First-generation and Underrepresented Students in the Sciences, will be led by Joanna Joyner-Matos, assistant professor of biology.. More than $500,000 of the grant is dedicated to scholarships, as EWU will support 36 upper division students who demonstrate academic potential, financial need and motivation for STEM studies.

"Our focus is to prioritize students who will be the first in their families to earn a college degree or are from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines," said Joyner-Matos, who will serve as the principal investigator on the project. "By providing incentives and support to these students, we will increase diversity in the growing STEM workforce."

Joyner-Matos noted this is a realistic project for EWU, because more than 40 percent of the university's student body is first-generation and 28 percent come from multi-cultural backgrounds.

To meet regional workforce needs, students will be recruited from biology, biochemistry and environmental science. Students will receive mentoring, two years of financial support and enrichment activities designed to increase academic integration.

Ultimately, these support services are designed to increase Eastern's ability to retain and produce STEM graduates who are competitive in the workforce or in graduate programs. The NSF grant will also allow EWU to create and maintain community partnerships that will increase the institution's visibility and generate training and employment opportunities for EWU's students.

Assisting Joyner-Matos on the S-STEM project are Rebecca Brown, associate professor of biology, Nicholas Burgis, associate professor of chemistry and Carmen Nezat, associate professor of geology at Eastern.

In awarding the grant, the NSF program officer noted the impressive universal enthusiasm for this project from EWU faculty and staff, all the way up to the president's office.

For more information, please contact Joanna Joyner-Matos at 509.359.2361 or


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