News

Grant program seeks to increases STEM opportunities for students with disabilities

October 23, 2017

A Troy University professor is taking part in a project aimed at increasing opportunities for people with disabilities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Dr. Zhiyong Wang, assistant professor and associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, is working with Dr. Overtoun Jenda of Auburn University on the project, the Southeast Alliance for Persons with Disabilities in STEM. The project is funded through the National Science Foundation’s NSF INCLUDES program.

Dr. Zhiyong Wang

NSF INCLUDES, or Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science, is a new approach to broadening participation in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The program will improve access to education and career pathways in the STEM disciplines on a national scale to underserved populations.

Troy is one of several universities throughout the southeast involved in the project.

“The National Science Foundation has been intentional in recent years about encouraging collaboration and alliances of different universities to widen the impact of efforts to increase diversity in STEM disciplines,” Dr. Wang said. “Troy University is pleased to be a part of this important effort.”

The project, which represents a collaborative effort with people from institutions around the Southeast, seeks to: increase the quality and quantity of persons with disabilities completing associate, undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines and entering the STEM workforce; increase the quality and quantity of post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty with disabilities in STEM fields; improve academic performance of students with disabilities in secondary level and mathematics courses; enhance communication and collaboration among post-secondary institutions, industry, government, national labs and community in addressing the education of students with disabilities in STEM disciplines; and, assess the program’s activities to understand what works to support the matriculation and retention of STEM students with disabilities in science, followed by broad dissemination through workshops, conference presentations, webinars and peer-reviewed publications.

The pilot phase of the project at TROY, which will run through the Spring 2018 semester, received $16,480 in funding to provide stipends for student participation.

“The purpose of the program is to help students with disabilities be successful in the STEM fields,” Dr. Wang said. “The STEM fields are challenging for anyone, but this program will help us better understand the challenges encountered by students with disabilities and help develop strategies that enable them to succeed. We are recruiting students to participate in the program.”

For additional information, contact Dr. Wang at wangz@troy.edu or 334-670-3573.