CSB receives grant to fund women in STEM

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December 20, 2019

The Henry Luce Foundation recently named the College of Saint Benedict as the winner of a Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program grant for $242,128 in support of eight CBL Undergraduate Research Scholars in chemistry, computer science, mathematics and/or physics, over a period of three years. The goal is to provide additional research support to undergraduate women who have a strong interest in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) career.

“The plan is to identify eight Clare Boothe Luce scholars early in spring semester (2020),” said CSB/SJU Academic Dean Barb May. These scholars will begin cohort training and research as early as mid to late spring semester. After that, the program begins in earnest, as all eight will be guaranteed research positions this summer at CSB/SJU.

CBL scholars will be selected based on interest in a science career, GPA and declared major in chemistry, computer science, mathematics or physics. Those selected will primarily be CSB sophomores, and the program will follow them through their remaining time at CSB/SJU.

They will have paid research positions throughout the academic year (replacing other work study jobs) for their junior and senior years, as well as a second paid summer research position between their junior and senior year (which can be completed off campus through internships or other opportunities). The program will culminate in a productive senior year capstone project. “Given these lengthy opportunities for undergraduate research,” said May, “these students will be more likely to publish their research successfully or present at national meetings.” In all, this grant will provide each CBL scholar with over $30,000 in support, between stipends, allowances for materials and equipment, and domestic research-related travel.

“This grant will significantly support CSB’s ongoing efforts to develop and implement programming that addresses the educational and social needs of underrepresented students in STEM, including women in the physical sciences,” May said.

Past successes in that effort have included:

  • A 1999-2002 Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Scholars Program grant that funded four CSB scholars. (All four women graduated with honors and have successful science careers.)
  • A 2011-15 National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM grant that funded the Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science Research Scholars (MapCores) program at CSB.
  • A 2013-16 NSF S-STEM grant that funded the Future Chemists Scholarships & Supports (FoCuS) program to increase the number of high-achieving chemistry majors from historically underrepresented groups, including women.

As May explains it, this CBL Program grant will build on the lessons learned in the MapCores and FoCuS programs.

“They helped us to identify how to effectively retain, train and prepare women and other students for careers in these areas. We want to use that experience and this opportunity to continue building an effective and meaningful program not only for women but for other underrepresented populations in STEM,” May said.

Since its first grants in 1989 the CBL Program has become one of the single most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering in higher education in the United States, according to the Henry Luce Foundation website. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. In her bequest establishing this program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering.

To date, the program has supported more than 2,500 women.