CSUN Receives Grant to Boost STEM, Arts Diversity at LA Colleges

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As part of its Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) program, the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded a five-year, $3 million grant to California State University, Northridge, to increase the participation of underrepresented students and address equity gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and arts fields.

Using the funding, CSUN will establish a collaborative project with the Los Angeles Pierce College and College of the Canyons, both community colleges in the Los Angeles area, known as the Strengthening Equitable Culturally Responsive Environments for Student Success (SfS2). All of the involved institutions are HSIs. Led by S.K. Ramesh, PhD, CSUN electrical and computer engineering professor, those involved in the project will work toward enhancing enrollment and academic performance and reducing equity gaps for underserved students in high-demand industries.

The project will expand the curriculum, provide research fellowships, and offer culturally responsive work-based learning experiences in high-demand industry sectors. SfS2 is designed to benefit approximately 6,000 students at CSUN and partner community colleges over the grant’s five-year duration, with an average cost of less than $500 per student. The comprehensive approach includes support for community college students, summer workshops, internships, industry engagement, career advisement, research opportunities, faculty and industry mentors, peer mentors, and undergraduate research symposiums.

Other key elements of the project include faculty support, capacity building for culturally responsive pedagogies, proactive advisement, and mentoring. The objective is to equip faculty with the necessary tools to ensure student success. The project draws inspiration from CSUN’s successful AIMS2 program (Attract, Inspire, Mentor, and Support Students) in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

For faculty involved, the project offers curriculum enhancement, development support, multicultural competency workshops, and professional development opportunities. SfS2 aligns with CSUN’s Road Ahead Strategic Plan and aims to institutionalize programs and services across the campus for long-term collective success.

“To put it simply, our students cannot succeed to the best of their abilities unless we give the faculty the tools they need to help our students succeed,” Ramesh said in a press release this week. “This is an exciting new approach that we hope will serve as a model, not just for the rest of the CSU [system], but for institutions of higher learning across the country.”