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Phoenix College Receives $2.4M Award From National Science Foundation

PHOENIX (April 22, 2020) – Phoenix College has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation for work-focused experiential learning to increase STEM student retention and graduation rates at two-year Hispanic-serving institutions.

These educational experiences will occur at the newly announced Maricopa IT Institute at Phoenix College, which is set for grand opening in August 2020.

Maria Reyes, Dean for Industry & Public Service at Phoenix College, will serve as the initiative’s principal investigator, with Phoenix College’s Nick Rouse, IT Faculty Program Director, serving as co-principal investigator. The project will include collaboration with researchers from Arizona State University - Caroline VanIngen-Dunn and Cynthia Pickering - and partner Deborah Santiago from Excelencia in Education.  

Phoenix College is a Hispanic-Serving Institution with a student body that is 58 percent Hispanic. The school has been a campus representing the diversity of the Valley for the last 100 years, with a specific focus on workforce development programs. The grant award will progressively facilitate the adoption of a STEM, evidence-based student serving framework at three urban and two rural Hispanic-Serving Institutions, originating at Phoenix College.   

“We are excited about this award because it will develop an evidence-based program to engage students in hands-on projects in the STEM workplace,” said NSF Program Director Talitha Washington. “With a focus on underrepresented students at two-year institutions, this award will contribute to the development of a well-qualified and diverse STEM workforce.”

“We are eager to design this high-impact model that will build capacity to engage and retain Hispanic students throughout their higher education experience, as well as prepare them for STEM-related positions in the workforce,” said Maria Reyes, Dean for Industry & Public Service at Phoenix College.

The multi-track design of the research will focus on aligning priority areas and innovating cross-sector partnerships over a five-year timeframe while placing emphasis on capacity building through work-focused, experiential learning. This model aims to prepare underrepresented and underserved students to seamlessly enter the STEM workforce.

“In this model, the industry partner receives a solution to an IT problem, the students receive the credit for their IT certificate, and the workforce is that much more prepared for the IT solutions of the future,” added Reyes. 

The externships and internships will bring together industry partners in IT from places such as Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the City of Phoenix, all of which signed on as early supporters of the effort.

"Phoenix College has been a great partner in our efforts and has long been committed to excellence and equity for Arizona’s public education system. The college continues to achieve academic excellence and this grant will provide the opportunity to enhance the educational experience through applied learning," says Jennifer Mellor, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation. 

“This is an exciting time at Phoenix College. At a time when we are looking back on our first century as an institution, we are also looking forward to ways to enrich the experience of our diverse student community. This grant, along with the opening of the Maricopa IT Institute in Downtown Phoenix, allow us the opportunity to continue our work in equity-based educational opportunities that are forward-thinking and will expand the professional horizons of our learners,” says Dr. Larry Johnson, President, Phoenix College. 

Program Contact: Maria Reyes, Dean of Industry and Public Service, Phoenix College (602) 285-7434 • Work

Media Contact: Erika Keenan, Director of Marketing, Phoenix College (602) 373-5923 • Cell

About Phoenix College: 

Phoenix College is the flagship of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. The College will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2020. Phoenix College offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates, and short-term job training to more than 17,000 students annually.

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