Dr. Dane Bowder, assistant professor of biology, works with a student in one of Doane's lab facilities.
Dr. Dane Bowder, assistant professor of biology, works with a student in one of Doane's lab facililities. Bowder is one of five co-principal investigators who applied for the National Science Foundation's S-STEM grant, which provides funding for Doane's SUCCESS program.

Doane University was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support students pursuing degrees in STEM majors. The grant will fund scholarships and paid research opportunities for academically talented, low-income students with unmet financial need through Doane’s Sustaining Undergraduate Classroom and Career Excellence for STEM Students (SUCCESS) Program.

“The SUCCESS program provides a terrific opportunity for students to break into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Dr. Kris Williams, associate professor of mathematics, director of institutional effectiveness at Doane, and the principal investigator of the grant. “We’re thrilled to have this funding from the NSF to continue encouraging low-income students to gain degrees in these fields, which helps diversify and create a more equitable STEM community.”

This is the second time the university has received funding to support the SUCCESS program through the NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. The program provides students with up to $7,800 in scholarships annually (and up to $31,200 over four years) enrolled in Doane’s Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering or Natural Sciences and Environmental Sciences degree programs. Doane will offer the scholarship to three cohorts of ten students starting in 2023.

In addition to financial support, students participating in the SUCCESS program benefit from:

  • A dedicated community within Doane’s residence halls. All first-year students in the program will be in a Living-Learning Community with a peer mentor to help them acclimate to campus life, studying and living away from home.
  • Advising and mentoring from faculty to help them develop individual plans of courses and experiences at Doane that will prepare them for careers or graduate studies.
  • Opportunities to participate in research or internships, including on campus.
  • Common coursework that allows students to learn college skills together, and to participate in STEMinars each semester that explore new scientific discoveries and promote career and graduate school preparation.

Doane had 38 students participate in the first cohort of the SUCCESS program, with 74% (28 students) graduating within four years. Sixteen of those 28 have continued in STEM careers or graduate programs, and the remaining 12 went on to medical fields, professional programs or non-STEM graduate programs. Of the 10 students who left the program, two continued at Doane in other programs and 8 transferred to other schools.

Marisa Foster ’20 was part of the first cohort, and graduated in December 2019 after 3.5 years with her Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Spanish. She is currently participating in an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The SUCCESS program was a deciding factor in her attending Doane, the Maywood Public Schools graduate said. Her sister had also attended the university, and she had met with several faculty members before, including Dr. Tessa Durham Brooks, associate professor of biology, with whom she would later work for as a research assistant. She had also been impressed by the capabilities of Doane’s labs and STEM facilities.

“I knew I had to pay for college on my own, so my college choice did come down quite a bit to where I could get the best scholarship. The SUCCESS scholarship brought down the amount I would have to pay, and also felt prestigious. Receiving it felt like I was getting recognition for the hard work I had already done in high school,” Foster said.

Foster started on a pre-med track, but through her experiences in the SUCCESS program, quickly discovered that research was her passion. She threw herself into research opportunities, working with Brooks on bacterial research, and exploring virology research with Dr. Dane Bowder, assistant professor of biology.

“The [SUCCESS] program gave me so many experiences that I used to discover what my own interests and passions were. And all of the lab experiences have given me a leg up in working in the CDC’s labs now,” Foster said.

Along with Williams, Bowder, Dr. Blake Colclasure, assistant professor of natural science and environmental studies, Dr. Chris Huber, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Cale Stolle, assistant professor of engineering, serve as co-principal investigators for the S-STEM grant. More information about the SUCCESS program is available online at Doane.edu.