Participant Support: GP-GO: The Appalachian SUCCESS Program: Strengthening Students Classified as Underrepresented in STEM by Improving Their Confidence, Curriculum and Enriching Sensing Skillsets

Grants and Contracts Details


GP-GO: The Appalachian SUCCESS Program: Strengthening students classified as Underrepresented in STEM by improving their Confidence, Curriculum and Enriching Sensing Skillsets Project Summary: Our goal is to establish the Appalachian SUCCESS program, test effectiveness of the learning ecosystem model guiding the program’s development and sustain an improved mentoring plan for Appalachian students that is carried forward after the grant ends. We seek to increase Appalachian graduate student access to geoscience training in the areas of karst and hyporheic science, develop student skills in the area of sensor technology, and increase research opportunities for students which can open doors to future research and career pathways. The program focuses on first year graduate students, and in some cases undergrads in transition, at the University of Kentucky, Marshall University and Eastern Kentucky University, which are Carnegie R1, R2 and M1 universities, respectively. The target group of students is Appalachian students, who classify as underrepresented in STEM, because they face quantifiable obstacles, such as hometown communities that are economically distressed, have secondary math and science test scores that are persistently below national averages, and are often first-generation college students with little or no family support. The students will be immersed in a 10-month-long program designed using STEM learning ecosystem model. Components of the learning ecosystem model aim to: build the students’ confidence through working with the tri-university cohort of students learning about sensor technology in geoscience; engage the students’ family and community in their curriculum so the two-way transfer of information both builds the graduate students confidence and allows them to see the potentially transformative impact of their work on family members and K-12 learning; help the students learn critical thinking that can be used in graduate school; help them explore and define their own geoscience interests and/or specializations to works towards a career plan; prepare them for future work in collaborative team and interdisciplinary scientific settings; and conduct independent research projects using advanced sensor instrumentation. This funding is needed so we can test and refine our learning ecosystem model, by retaining the valuable components of the model, and move forward a sustainable mentoring plan that teaches Appalachian students the newest technological skillset, networks students with industry and government agencies, and helps develop students’ soft skills needed for success in their careers. Intellectual Merit: The intellectual merit of the project is to contribute to the scientific and education literature regarding high resolution sensing of earth’s processes while providing first year graduate students with sensing skills to improve their success rate in graduate school and their STEM careers. Students will learn high resolution sensing of water and its solutes in soils, karst and non-karst vadose zones, sediments of hyporheic zones, streams, rivers and lakes. Sensor technology and the cyberinfrastructure surrounding its use will be advanced as students work with the most state-of-the-art water sensors. Students will perform research with sensors that measure water quality parameters including pH, DO, specific conductance, temperature, turbidity, nutrients, chlorophyll and phycocyanin. Students will perform research using twelve sensor platforms across three universities set up for studying karst springs, first order streams, third order streams, and the Ohio River. Smaller scale sites will allow focus on a specific water pathways associated with the landscape while larger scale sites such as the Ohio River will allow study of how transported nutrients impact downstream algal blooms. The sites will also assist with answering scientific questions regarding phosphorous loading and temporary retention in the streams. Broader Impacts: The broader impacts are a blueprint for a learning ecosystem model for the Appalachian SUCCESS program will be tested and refined; Appalachian graduate students will have better access to graduate school in STEM; family engagement and two-way learning will be accomplished; middle- and high-school students from Appalachia will learn about successful geoscience careers; and 12 Appalachian, first year graduate students will participate as part of this program. Appalachian students classify as underrepresented in STEM, and specifically we will target students from the counties that are classified as distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Students from Appalachian communities are, statistically, economically distressed, have secondary math and science 1 test scores that are persistently below national averages, and are largely often first-generation college students. In addition, quantitative evidence has shown Appalachian students avoid moving far from their hometown and have anxiety towards post-baccalaureate degrees attributed to family pressures. We aim to build a bridge for Appalachian students that can smoothly transition them to graduate schools with geoscience MS and PhD programs. The broader impacts will be further realized when we sustain our Appalachian SUCCESS program. 2
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/25


  • National Science Foundation


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