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MassBay Receives $1.2M in National Science Foundation Grants

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Students in Computer Lab WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass. (August 19, 2021) — MassBay Community College is pleased to announce the awarding of two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants totaling more than $1.2 million to promote diversity in cybersecurity programs and to train faculty who teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in best practices that encourage and support underrepresented students in their STEM programs. Both projects, funded by the NSF, will start in October 2021 with a focus on promoting diversity in the classroom, as well as improving retention and graduation rates, and adding diversity to the workforce.

“We are tremendously grateful to the NSF for this investment,” said MassBay President David Podell. “This region has been driven by a STEM economy for decades, and we have long recognized that good, sustainable careers can be had in STEM fields. Directing resources that lead to the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in STEM is a common sense step that will help to ensure underrepresented students also thrive along with this growing sector of our economy. MassBay is proud to play a leading role in making that happen.”

The MassBay initiative titled, Catalyzing Transformative Change in STEM Education through an Institute for Inclusive Pedagogy was awarded $699,994 and will be dedicated to systemically changing how STEM faculty educate students of color. The project was created to address national data that reveal students of color who are enrolling at the same rate as their peers have lower-levels of retention, graduation, and transferring or entering the workforce. To combat this, MassBay will create and hold three STEM Equity Summer Institutes (STEM-ESI) over the grant period, educating 30 STEM faculty and staff members at MassBay and 15 high school faculty members from partner high schools, Milford High School and Framingham High School. The STEM-ESI will teach educators how to better serve underrepresented students by address inequities in the classroom that impede students from completing STEM courses, majoring in STEM fields, and succeeding in STEM disciplines.

“This is a transformative grant for MassBay and for the Metrowest region,” said MassBay Associate Director of the Math and Science Center, Anu Meacham. “With these resources we will provide instructors in STEM classrooms at the high school and post-secondary level with the tools they need to fully support all of the students they serve. We are truly grateful for these funds and cannot wait to get started on this important work.”

The second MassBay initiative titled, Attracting the Next Generation Cybersecurity Workforce or ACT was awarded $598,712 and is aimed at diversifying the Cybersecurity field by recruiting, retaining, and graduating underrepresented and female students in MassBay’s Cybersecurity programs. Through collaborations with regional industry and high school partners, MassBay will create an education pipeline to encourage and support female and underrepresented high school students to pursue a Cybersecurity education. A central part of this project will be the recruitment by high schools and youth organizations, working alongside industry partners to create competitions, hackathons, mentoring and internship programs, all designed to provide students with opportunities to engage in hands-on and experiential learning, career mentoring, and tailored career advice. This project will also create a Cyber Range, where students use an online interactive technology space that simulates a network, learning to detect and solve cybersecurity attacks.

“This exciting project aims to build an educated and diverse workforce that will strengthen the local and regional economy,” said MassBay Computer Science Professor and Director of Center for Cybersecurity Education, Shamsi Moussavi. “We will play a leading role in Cybersecurity education at MassBay, but we are especially eager to work with our current and future partners in the Metrowest region to engage female and underrepresented scholars, inspiring them to explore a career in cybersecurity. We expect this program will ultimately produce a diverse pool of skilled workers who will enhance the level of security our businesses and organizations, serve our community, and enjoy a clear path to good jobs.”

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) website, the independent federal agency was created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the process of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.” The NSF has an annual budget of $8.5 billion, and are a funding source for approximately 25% of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. MassBay’s STEM-ESI project is funded by NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE): Education and Human Resources program and the ACT project is funded by NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.

MassBay Community College is the most affordable higher education option in MetroWest Boston, offering a robust portfolio of courses and more than 70 associate degree and certificate programs with flexible day, evening, and weekend classes in Ashland, Framingham, Wellesley Hills, and online. MassBay students receive an unmatched educational value by earning stackable credits that transfer to bachelor’s degree programs, and workforce-ready skills necessary to advance careers in high-demand fields such as health and life sciences, automotive technology, engineering, business, cybersecurity, and the humanities. MassBay’s Associate Degree in Nursing (RN) and Practical Nursing (LPN) programs were both ranked as the #1 Nursing Program in Massachusetts in 2020-2021 by national nursing advocacy organizations, and Since its founding in 1961, MassBay has been accredited by several governing bodies and remains firmly committed to its mission of meeting the needs of the diverse local communities it serves. We value the intrinsic worth of all individuals, collectively in pursuit of inclusiveness and prioritize our work towards achieving equity within our community and beyond.

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