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$450,000 NSF Grant Will Fund STEM Scholarships

August 30, 2011

Notre Dame of Maryland University is awarding scholarships of up to $10,000 annually to academically talented undergraduates in its Women’s College who are pursuing degrees in STEM fields: physics, mathematics, engineering and computer information systems. The scholarships will be awarded through the University’s Pathways to Excellence program, which is funded by a four-year $452,050 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

“The Pathways to Excellence program builds upon our unique position as a women’s college educating women for challenging and rewarding STEM careers,” said Mary Pat Seurkamp, president of Notre Dame. “Notre Dame has excelled at preparing women for careers in math and science for 116 years, and countless alumnae have gone on to make great strides as scientists, engineers, researchers, nurses and teachers.”

Physics professor Joseph Di Rienzi will lead the Pathways to Excellence program, which will draw up to 10 participants from a pool of current and prospective students who meet academic and NSF eligibility requirements. The program features a three-pronged mentoring system involving a faculty member in the student's discipline, a peer mentor from the program itself and an alumni mentor working in a STEM position. 

“Notre Dame has a proud legacy of providing a values-based, nurturing environment that supports and encourages the development of individuals prepared to lead full and enriching lives,” said Dr. Di Rienzi. “We believe our mission strongly complements the nation’s need to provide more mathematicians, scientists, engineers and computer information specialists that can combine their technical skills with a heartfelt commitment to improve the lives of their respective communities. The scholarships provided by the NSF grant will provide funds to support full-time study in the designated STEM disciplines.” 

The Pathways to Excellence program is designed to train promising young women for careers in high-demand fields, where women are traditionally underrepresented. An August 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce finds that while women fill almost half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, which tend to be higher-paying. The study also notes that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, and that the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs. 

In addition to receiving financial support, Pathways to Excellence scholars will be trained to deliver effective oral and poster presentations and will present scholarly work both in and outside the University. Each student in the program will participate in experiential learning opportunities and will be required to construct with her faculty mentor a career development plan including measurable annual goals.

Notable Notre Dame alumnae in the STEM fields include:

  • Dr. Susan Love, renowned breast cancer researcher and author of the bestseller, “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book”
  • Pediatric neurologist Dr. Doris Trauner ’66, the first woman to chair the School of Medicine at University of California, San Diego
  • Bernadette Clemens-Walatka ’68, recipient of the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
  • Sheree Stokes Schattenmann ’93, fourth black woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT
  • NASA electronics engineer LaVida Cooper ’03, Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Award winner. 
  • Nicole Kotulak ’09, Ph.D. candidate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Delaware, recipient of a NSF-IGERT Fellowship and the 2010 George W. Laird Fellowship.

Notre Dame of Maryland University, founded as a Catholic liberal arts college in 1895 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, engages students as confident, capable learners and leaders, thriving in the vibrant, personal community of its distinguished Women’s College, College of Adult Undergraduate Studies and College of Graduate Studies. Rich in tradition, Notre Dame provides students with opportunities in research, study abroad and service to the global community. Notre Dame’s graduates change lives—in their careers, communities and families. Visit www.ndm.edu.