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Bakersfield College to use $5M grant to expand access for Hispanic students in STEM programs

Jason Dixon_James McGarrah and Maryam Jalalifarahani

From left, Jason Dixon, James McGarrah and Maryam Jalalifarahani stand in front of the college's Aera STEM Student Success Center.

Bakersfield College officials Wednesday expressed optimism for how a $5 million grant intended to support Hispanic students in STEM programs would help the college continue to grow opportunities for those students in several areas.

James McGarrah, associate dean of instruction for the college’s science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs, said the money would be used in three programs that will directly impact as many as 1,000 students through several existing initiatives at BC.

“What these funds will will do is help strengthen a program that we've already started, which is called the STEM study group leaders program,” McGarrah said Wednesday, noting the program provides valuable peer-mentoring opportunities for students, particularly first-generation college students, which are helpful in preparing for the transition to a four-year program. The funds would help the college pay for a facilitator for the program’s expansion of the mentoring program, as well as stipends to support the peer mentors.

“In science, technology, engineering, math and the STEM arena, group learning and being able to form study groups is a critical skill, especially needed upon transfer,” he added.

The other way the funding is expected to help the college is with a STEM academy, which would be a summertime program to help students learn about what their degree path would look like, he added, whether the student is transitioning from high school or returning to an academic environment from the workforce.

A third component of the funding would include money for research projects that would encourage collaboration between students, BC faculty and Cal State Bakersfield — which also received support from the grant program — which is expected to create more opportunity for BC students.

The college is working on putting together everything necessary in place to put the funds, which are awarded retroactively, to use as soon as possible, McGarrah said, noting students could see an impact as soon as the spring semester.

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