Welcome to Arkansas State University!

News Article

STEM program receives scholarship funding from National Science Foundation for Experiential Learning Fellowships


The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced funding for the Experiential Learning Fellowships (ELF) Program in the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Arkansas State University.  This five-year, $567,000 project will provide 16 undergraduate and four graduate students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines with scholarships that will allow them to further investigate how science can be used to solve local problems. 

The program takes a novel approach to learning about environmental issues.  On a regular basis, the principal investigators of the program (assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Hashim Ali, assistant professor of botany Dr. Travis Marsico, assistant professor of entomology Dr. Tanja McKay, associate dean for research and external engagement Dr. John Pratte and assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Richard Warby) will send out requests for proposals to the local community for relevant environmental issues that need investigation to determine cause and impacts.  The students in the ELF program will work in small interdisciplinary groups to gather data and analyze results.  The researchers will then report back to the communities and suggest steps for remediation of the environmental problem.

“Many different types of projects are anticipated, all of which can help community organizations and people to work on issues that help them solve their environmental problems,” said Dr. Pratte.  “For example, the groups could work with the city to investigate the possibility of lead leaching into the ground at an abandoned warehouse or with a non-profit organization that wants to make its building more energy efficient.”

The ELF (Experiential Learning Fellowship) program is providing financial resources to increase the number of students successfully completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines while also civically engaging them in relevant science issues within their community very early in their careers. The scholarship support provides the financial means to finish their academic career while also providing time and access to an unparalleled learning experience and to timely mentors in research.

The program encourages cross-disciplinary interaction between students and faculty during the earliest academic years and strongly promotes peer learning and mentorship across the academic spectrum.

In addition to increasing student learning and retention, the ELF program has a goal of building bridges between the local community and university.  Dr. Pratte said this fosters better relationships between the two entities and makes more likely the recruitment of minority and first generation students to the university and STEM disciplines. The impact of the program will be assessed by the Office of Behavioral Research and Evaluation at ASU (Co-Directors Dr. David Saarnio and Christy Brinkley).

For more information on ELF, please contact John Pratte at jpratte@astate.edu.

# # #