Rep. Cuellar Announces Over $1.4 Million for New HSI STEM Program at UTRGV

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Congressman creates first-ever National Science Foundation STEM Program specifically for Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Texas Border Business

WASHINGTON— Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) announced over $1.4 million for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to increase the retention and graduation of undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Congressman Cuellar created the first-ever NSF STEM program focused on HSIs through his work on the appropriations committee. With these funds, UTRGV will develop new mathematics and biology “gateway” courses for first year and early career students; offered in a bilingual modality. The university will design and implement professional development workshops to help faculty implement effective community engagement and experiential learning in STEM, and will study the impact of these courses on students’ sense of belonging, pride, and cultural wealth, and student performance and retention in STEM fields.

This grant is part of NSF’s first ever research grants awarded under the NSF HSI Program. For years, Congressman Cuellar has made it a priority to secure funding for HSIs in his district. In the 2017 fiscal year Appropriations bill, Congressman Cuellar secured $15 million in funding for the first-ever NSF STEM program focused specifically on HSIs. NSF used these funds to conduct conferences and listening sessions with students, faculty, deans, and heads of professional organizations to determine the best practices for improving undergraduate STEM Education in HSIs. The Congressman was successful in growing this program by adding an additional $30 million for this program in 2018. This grant for UTRGV comes from the FY 2018 funding secured by Congressman Cuellar.

Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they make up only 6 percent of the U.S. STEM workforce. More than 60 percent of Hispanic students attend an HSI. Specifically, the university will use this program to develop new courses and develop new classes in Community Engaged Scholarship and Learning, which will emphasize meaningful engagement in community-based STEM-related projects. By emphasizing the broader, societal relevance of STEM fields, these new courses will help first-year students develop a sense of belonging and commitment. It is expected that these innovations will enhance students’ success in STEM, helping to address a national need to increase diversity in STEM fields.

“I know firsthand the transformative power of education,” explained Congressman Cuellar. “I experienced it in my own life. I also see it every day in my district, as we have more than a dozen Hispanic-Serving Institutions serving our area. These schools produce top-notch academic talent, prepared for a 21st-century workforce. Our accomplishments today ensure that universities do not miss out on this valuable population in research, partnerships, and hiring – and that these important institutions have the funds they need to continue to succeed.”

Congressman Cuellar continues to work in the appropriations to grow this HSI program. In FY19, the Congressman helped secure $50 million for this program through the U.S. House of Representatives’ fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. Over the course of three years, Congressman Cuellar has secured a total of $95 million dollars for this program.

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There are more than a dozen Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in or near Congressman Cuellar’s district, including Laredo Community College, South Texas College, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, University of the Incarnate Word, Northeast Lakeview College, and Texas A&M International University.