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Tompkins Cortland Community College Part of $3.35 Million NSF Grant

September 13, 2011

Tompkins Cortland Community College is part of a project that has secured $3.35 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to roll out a national model for incorporating research into community college biology courses. Finger Lakes Community College is the recipient of the grant, Jamestown Community College and Delaware Techinical and Community College are also part of the effort.

The funding comes from NSF's Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) program, in which there are three levels of funding. The highest level, achieved only by this project this year, is extremely competitive because the projects must demonstrate that they will have impact on a national level.

Half of all college students in the nation attend community colleges, making a rigorous two-year curriculum a national priority if the U.S. is to stay competitive in the sciences, explained Jim Hewlett, professor of biology and head of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) (www.ccuri.org), based at FLCC.

"Given the community college's increasing role in preparing transfer students to four-year colleges, we need to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to become future biologists," said Hewlett, who applied for this grant on behalf of FLCC.

In the first year of implementation, the project team, led by Hewlett, will select 16 community colleges from across the country to participate in an extensive program that begins with three-day workshops in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

At the workshops, Hewlett and faculty from Tompkins Cortland, Jamestown Community College, and Delaware Technical and Community College will help them design, implement, and assess undergraduate research programs at their institutions. The Council for Undergraduate Research, a national organization with similar goals, will provide additional support.

The grant will then support these institutions (supplies, equipment, faculty and curriculum development, stipends for student research assistants) for the remaining three years as their plans take shape on their respective campuses. The Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University will evaluate the project as it unfolds.