School of Informatics, Ivy Tech receive $4M NSF grant to train disadvantaged students for IT jobs

  • Sept. 22, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- A $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College Central Indiana will address an unmet need in workforce opportunities in informatics among academically talented, economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority high school graduates in Indianapolis.

"Ivy Tech is pleased to partner with IUPUI through this grant to help train and educate underserved students," said Kathleen Lee, chancellor of Ivy Tech Central Indiana. "With the continued growth of the IT industry and the growing demand for skilled workers, it will take strategic partnerships like this one to help meet our workforce needs."  

The main objective of the new initiative is to educate, graduate and place 80 associate and 60 baccalaureate degree students -- who have financial need and are either economically disadvantaged and/or an underrepresented minority -- in the IT workforce in five years.

"This Scholarship -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics grant from the National Science Foundation will help address a critical need for growing the IT workforce while reaching out to low-income high school graduates," said Mathew J. Palakal, principal investigator for the project and executive associate dean of the School of Informatics and Computing.

Researchers expect the initiative will achieve a 90 percent success rate in degree completion and career placement among students with financial need and other underrepresented minorities who participate in the program, generating new knowledge on applying tailored curriculum and co-curriculum activities that enhance student recruitment, retention, achievement, persistence to graduation and job placement.

"The consortium arrangement between the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI and Ivy Tech will provide a national model for two-year to four-year college transition in the S-STEM context," Palakal said.

The "wraparound" program features various high-impact practices such as faculty and industry mentoring, internships, residential-based learning communities, undergraduate research opportunities, and service learning, which have been shown to improve students' levels of critical thinking, active learning, problem-solving, academic performance, persistence and graduation rates.

The new initiative builds upon the current Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce program at three Indianapolis high schools, which is preparing students for careers in information technology, and the success of two NSF-funded STEM projects at IUPUI.

One of those projects is CLEAR Scholars in Engineering, an S-STEM program for undergraduate engineering students in the School of Engineering and Technology that provides academic and financial support; the other is the Central Indiana STEM Talent Expansion Program, which is creating a Central Indiana pipeline and a university culture change to increase the number of IUPUI students obtaining STEM degrees.

Principal investigators of the initiative are Palakal, principal investigator, and co-principal investigators Kim Nguyen, operations director of the Urban Center for the Advancement of STEM Education, IUPUI; Gregory Leigh, chair, informatics program, Ivy Tech; Liugen Zhu, faculty member, School of Informatics and Computing, IUPUI; and Michele Hansen, director of institutional research, IUPUI.

The grant will help to educate, graduate and place economically disadvantaged students into the IT workforce.

The grant will help to educate, graduate and place economically disadvantaged students into the IT workforce.

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Richard Schneider