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Central Community College-Columbus is helping recruit and train the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists, thanks to a five-year S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation.

CCC is using the grant, which was awarded in 2017, to fund “Project GPS: Growing Pathways to STEM.” It was the only Nebraska community college to receive such an award.

Sixty-percent of the grant money is earmarked for scholarships. To qualify, students must be pursuing an associate degree in a STEM field, be high-achievers academically (a 3.0 GPA or higher), be U.S. citizens, and be in financial need according to the FAFSA application. Up to $8,650 in unmet financial need could be provided per student per year for the two-year program.

Project GPS is not only tackling the financial obstacle for students seeking STEM careers but is also studying other barriers to success by offering “GPS Scholars” extensive academic and career mentoring, opportunities for early involvement in research and industry projects, and the chance to become part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary team.

“STEM knowledge and skills are important in many 21st century careers right here in Nebraska,” said Steve Heinisch, principal investigator for Project GPS and a CCC-Columbus science instructor. “Students need to understand, for example, that information technology, statistical analysis and biology all come together in modern livestock production.”

“This program grants GPS scholars access to experiences, specifically in scientific research, unheard of in other community college settings and often difficult to come by at large universities,” said Dr. Lauren Gillespie, co-principal investigator of Project GPS and a CCC-Columbus biology instructor. “Interested students will have the chance to do independent research related to biology, ecology, and engineering; they can also work collaboratively on larger projects, present their research at international conferences, and publish the results of our research.”

The first group of GPS Scholars will be selected from new and returning CCC students who apply by March 1 through ccc.awardspring.com, CCC’s scholarship application portal. Applicants must provide two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from a STEM-area instructor. Returning CCC students must ensure that a STEM instructor on their campus gives their name to principal investigators Heinisch or Gillespie.

Additional information and updates can be found at www.cccneb.edu/GPSscholarship. Questions may be directed to Gillespie at laurengillespie@cccneb.edu or Heinisch at sheinisch@cccneb.edu.

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