Recruiting future engineers from the heartland is one of the ways St. Ambrose University will put to use a $600,000 S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation.
SAU is one of 85 schools nationwide that were awarded five-year grants that aim to fill one the fastest growing fields in the U.S.
Jodi Prosise, PhD, an assistant professor in the engineering department and the principal author of the winning SAU grant proposal, said the university's goal is to graduate more than 50 additional engineers within the next five years, or double the current number.
Reaching out to smaller schools in Iowa and Illinois is one way Prosise and the engineering faculty hope to enlist development money supplied by the NSF grant. Students from the fertile farmland, she said, are a heretofore untapped resource and Prosise said including that as a focus in the SAU grant application may have helped its case.
"They are excited to see if what we do works, because they hadn't thought of that before," she said. Of the NSF "But being here in the heart of the Midwest, I thought that was something we could really take advantage of. Most of our engineering students come from Chicago."
Prosise said St. Ambrose faculty and students and some area industry partners will attempt to encourage rural interest in engineering by traveling to schools throughout the region. They will conduct hands-on seminars on engineering and the myriad career opportunities it presents.
SAU will also look to expand its engineering enrollment by enlisting the grant money to increase the number of community college students transferring into the SAU engineering program.
Currently, a model transfer agreement is being negotiated with Black Hawk College in Moline. The plan is to build a curriculum there that other community colleges in the region can use as "a fast pathway into our engineering program," Prosise said.
The NSF grant also will be used to bolster undergraduate engineering research at SAU, providing training for faculty and school-year stipends for students who assist faculty research.
Bolstering partnerships with industries to increase job placement will be a final piece of the program, Prosise said.