Grant continues to IINSPIRE

Erik Zorrilla (right), an Upper Iowa University (UIU) biology major from Miami, Fla., was among the students making presentations during the recent UIU Homecoming Student Research Poster Session at Fayette Campus. Zorilla is among the UIU students to benefit from LSAMP IINSPIRE programming.

The National Science Foundation has approved a five-year renewal of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Iowa-Illinois-Nebraska STEM Partnership for Innovation and Research and Education (IINSPIRE) Grant. A renewal of the LSAMP IINSPIRE alliance grant results in Upper Iowa University (UIU) receiving $90,000 in grant funding over the five-year period, nearly double the amount allocated to UIU six years ago.

UIU Associate Professor of Geosciences Kata McCarville explained that the alliance brings together 16 two-year and four-year colleges and universities that are working to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the Midwest. The participating institutions collaborate to support and increase the success of students, and provide students in the alliance with academic, research, training, and mentoring opportunities including scholarships and research stipends.

“Participating IINSPIRE students gain confidence in the STEM-related career field that they choose to pursue through various training, mentoring, support and transition programs,” said McCarville. “The alliance is also focusing on expanding inclusive mentoring and teaching practices; collaborating across campuses to provide opportunities for students and faculty; and studying, evaluating and improving student experiences and outcomes.”

Erik Zorrilla, a UIU biology major from Miami, Fla., is among the UIU students who have benefitted from the LSAMP IINSPIRE programming. In February 2016, Zorilla placed third in the research poster competition at the annual IINSPIRE Alliance Conference in Des Moines. Currently a junior, he also placed first in the experiential category of the IINSPIRE poster competition in 2015.

“The LSAMP program has definitely helped me establish connections and also provided me opportunities that would not have been otherwise possible in preparing me for graduate school and my future career as a doctor,” said Zorilla, whose award-winning poster was developed after conducting a summer research experience at Iowa State University.

UIU is a STEM Jobs Approved College. This special recognition is for colleges and universities that provide broad and innovative STEM degree options for undergraduate students, actively recruit underrepresented and under-prepared students into STEM degrees, and offer targeted student support systems and career services to help students succeed.

Scholarships in STEM available at UIU

UIU was also recently awarded a $650,000 S-STEM (Scholarships in STEM) Grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition to funding seven scholarships to be awarded each year to Upper Iowa freshman in 2017 and 2018, the grant monies will be used by the University to research and strengthen STEM-related educational and programming opportunities not only for UIU but all educational institutions.

As previously reported, the approved UIU grant application is titled, “STEM Pros: Impacts of Family-Oriented Programming on Retention, Academic Success, and Career Trajectories of Undergraduate Students in STEM Disciplines.” The award was the culmination of three submissions over a four-year period by McCarville and UIU professor of mathematics and physics Nigel George, who served as the co-principal investigators for the grant application.

The ultimate goal of the STEM-Pros scholars program is for the participating students to develop their full potential as STEM professionals by establishing self-identity and acquiring the skills to define and solve complex problems. With faculty guidance, academic supports, co-curricular experiences, and innovative family programming, participating students will be more fully engaged in their chosen fields and persist in overcoming challenges.

The amount of each STEM-Pros scholarship will be based on the student’s demonstrated financial need. The annual cap is $10,000 per student. The scholarship is renewable for up to three additional years, if the student continues to meet the eligibility and participation requirements.

Additional information on Upper Iowa University’s STEM Pros program will be released at a later date. Future UIU students may complete the STEM PROS scholarship form at

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