April 29, 2017

NSF scholarships mark a new era for Webster STEM

Webster University alumna Hailey Kaufman said she enjoyed the experience of Webster’s biology program, but felt that it was underappreciated.

“There was a sense of kind of being forgotten,” Kaufman said. “The biology labs are literally underground… I didn’t get the sense that people came to Webster because they loved science. I got more of a sense that they came to Webster and majored in biology because it would help them get a physical therapy job or it would help them in athletics.”

The sciences have never been as popular at Webster as they are to schools like Washington University and Saint Louis University. The location of most of the classes reflect that, to an extent. The classrooms appear worn and the rooms are cluttered and in need of more space for equipment. Most have been in the basement of Webster Hall almost as long as the school has been open.

However, new science department expansions are coming in the form of the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building (ISB) and the Winning Approaches for Talented Transfers (WATTS) scholarship. The scholarship is funded by a $647,669 grant awarded to Webster from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2016. The purpose of the scholarships is to offer an incentive to prospective transfer students looking to major in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.

Eligible students would be awarded $10,000 each.

Former Biological Sciences Chairperson Stephanie Schroeder said she had been working towards expanding the sciences department for the nine years she was on the Biological Sciences Board.

“It is our hope that these funds will help potential transfer students who have strong academic background and financial need to be able to afford completing their bachelor’s degree at Webster,” Schroeder said.

According to the NSF, Webster is one out of more than 42,000 institutions that have applied for financial backing for their STEM programs in 2016.

However, it was the first year the university received these funds, according to usaspending.gov. NSF has a separate procedure for an institution to follow when applying for a grant for the first time with the foundation. This process is called the Prospective New Awardee Guide (PNAG).

Kaufman said she is looking forward to seeing the science department flourish, aided by the addition of the ISB and the WATTS scholarships.

“Stephanie Schroeder has been working toward this for a long time,” Kaufman said. “I’d love to see what happens with the STEM schools. I’m sure they are going to grow over the next few years.”

Washington University also received grants from NSF in the amount of $950,161. Saint Louis University received grants from NSF totalling $5,517,566 and Fontbonne University received $625,318. Incoming transfer students were able to apply for the scholarship starting Jan. 1, 2017.

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