National Science Foundation Grants $5 Million to Assist High-Achieving STEM Students

(Minneapolis) – A $5 million award from the National Science Foundation will support the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Augsburg University will receive $3,075,000 of the total award.

The collaborative project will provide scholarships as well as internships and research experiences for nearly 200 students over a five-year period starting this academic year at Augsburg, Century College, Minneapolis College, and Normandale Community College. These institutions will work together to provide seamless pathways for transfer from two-year to four-year STEM programs.

“This award offers students a powerful combination of a scholarship coupled with experience to prepare them for the workforce or further graduate study,” said Paul Pribbenow, Augsburg’s president. “As a member of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, I know there is strong demand for students with these majors. STEM transfer students enrich our campus and bring talent and wisdom that our country needs.”

Scholarships of $7,500 to $10,000 will be awarded to students pursuing majors in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, food science, mathematics, and physics. These students will be connected to internships and research experiences through partner organizations SciTech, UpTurnships, and MnDRIVE, as well as through Augsburg’s undergraduate research programs.

This is the third phase of a program initiated by Augsburg and funded by the NSF. “Getting the NSF scholarship for my education was an amazing opportunity,” said Radhika Tandon, who will graduate from Augsburg this year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is currently a site reliability engineer intern at Thomson Reuters. “Because of the program, I was able to attend various conferences and make connections with many interesting people in my field.”

The overall project will be led by Augsburg principal investigator Rebekah Dupont working in collaboration with principal investigators Jessica Bell and Joann Pfeiffer of Century College, Renu Kumar of Minneapolis College, and Angela Foudray of Normandale Community College. The Augsburg team includes co-principal investigators Alex Ajayi, Ryan Haaland, Amy Larson, and Michael Wentzel. Faculty from all four institutions will work together to create structural supports through mentoring, advising, and improved transfer pathways.

In addition to assisting students who are pursuing STEM-related majors, the project includes an education research component led by Keisha Varma, associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education and Human Development  and associate vice provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. The goal of the research is to increase the academic success of students through effective mentoring.

“I see great potential to understand how mentorship can improve the outcomes of low-income, high-achieving students and create positive STEM identities,” she said. “Through shared understanding across institutions, we may be able to increase capacity among all of our faculty to be effective mentors.”

Project evaluation will be led by Xueli Wang, professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who brings expertise in longitudinal, mixed methods research that addresses inequities in access to transfer, particularly in STEM fields. The collaborating institutions will partner with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) for professional development as well as access to a platform for mentor/mentee assessment across multiple sites.

This third phase of the program is funded by the NSF’s S-STEM program under award number 2030638. Grants in the prior phases (award numbers 1565060 and 1154096) funded scholarships for 111 STEM students, 100% of whom graduated and went on to pursue careers or are continuing their education in STEM fields.

Media Contact: Gita Sitaramiah, Director of Public Relations and Internal Communications
Office: 612.330.1476

Riverside Innovation Hub’s Work With Congregations to Expand With $1 Million Grant

(Minneapolis) – Augsburg University has received a  $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help expand the Augsburg College Sealwork of the Riverside Innovation Hub within the university’s Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV).

The program is funded through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations such as the Christensen Center for Vocation as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

The Christensen Center plays an integral role in stewarding the university’s commitment to, and exploration of vocation, the unique way God calls and equips us—as individuals and as communities—to work towards a better world for and with our neighbors. The Thriving Congregations Initiative grant will enable Augsburg’s CCV to expand and solidify the future of this work with congregations. We will walk with our partners through two consecutive two-year learning communities consisting of leadership teams from twelve congregations. Our hope is to develop an ecumenical network of twenty-four congregations over five years who are becoming more deeply engaged in the proclamation of Christ’s good news in transformative ways in their neighborhoods.

“The Christensen Center for Vocation is creating an innovative model for how a university of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can be a learning partner with local congregations and ministry leaders for the sake of the world,” said Paul Pribbenow, Augsburg’s president. “These partnerships will create exciting learning opportunities for our students, staff, and faculty, who wrestle with what it means to live faithfully in the church and in the world in the midst of the various challenges our communities are facing: COVID-19, growing economic inequality, climate change, and the prevalence of racist systems.”

Augsburg University is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as non-denominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

Media Contact: Gita Sitaramiah, Director of Public Relations and Internal Communications. 651-353-0061-cell

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.