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This article was originally published on 07/18/2014. Information and links within may no longer be applicable.

Virginia Western awarded national grant to support STEM education

ROANOKE —Virginia Western Community College is one of 10 community colleges nationally selected as the latest cohort to participate in an initiative that advances STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) technician education programs. Through the MentorLinks: Advancing Technological Education program, Virginia Western will be paired with experienced community college mentors with extensive experience in planning and implementing advanced technology programs.

For Virginia Western’s project, the Biology Department in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has been approved to develop a Career Studies Certificate (CSC) in Biotechnology. This certificate will provide students with relevant skills and knowledge in the topics of biotechnology. The program will begin in fall of 2015 and will feature three new courses to provide students with a strong overview of the techniques utilized in biotechnology research as well as core laboratory skills that will relate to a variety of different biotech technician jobs or transfer to a four-year institution.

Mentors from City College of San Francisco will work closely with Virginia Western Biology faculty members Stacie Deaver and Amy White on activities such as curriculum development, industry engagement, faculty development, student recruitment and retention, and experiential learning experiences and development for both faculty and students.

Virginia Western was awarded $20,000 in seed money for the two-year grant period, to support travel to national meetings and events and biotechnology program development. MentorLinks is led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Virginia Western understands the importance of STEM technical education to our local economy and workforce,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “We are very excited that this grant will help us in planning and implementing innovative programs that will benefit the region for years to come.”

AACC has managed the small, yet transformational MentorLinks project since 2002, where assistance to 34 colleges has resulted in the creation of 103 new courses, 15 new associate degrees and 25 new certificates; the development of several industry partnerships and internship sites; STEM program enrollment increases ranging from 14 percent to 350 percent; and the leveraging of more than $3.5 million in additional grant funding. Many of the previous colleges have applied for and received additional NSF grants as a result of their MentorLinks experience.

In addition to Virginia Western, the other selected mentee colleges for the 2014–2016 MentorLinks initiative are Harrisburg Area Community College (Pa.), Irvine Valley College (Ca.), Kapi'olani Community College (HI), Mohave Community College (AZ), Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (SC), Patrick Henry Community College (Martinsville, Va.), Shoreline Community College (WA), Texas State Technical College Harlingen (TX) and Tri-County Community College (SC).

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