The Texas A&M University College of Science and San Antonio-based Palo Alto College (PAC) are teaming up to make the dream of achieving a four-year science degree a reality for some of the Lone Star State's most accomplished and deserving students who might not have the resources to do so otherwise.

Backed by a five-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the two partners have established the Science Scholars Program (SSP), which will provide scholarships for undergraduate students majoring in biology, chemistry, mathematics or physics to begin their studies at PAC, a two-year program, then transfer to Texas A&M to complete their four-year degrees.

"We will be recruiting students from the San Antonio area who, for whatever reason, may not want to go to Texas A&M University right away," explains Dr. Sherry J. Yennello, associate dean for diversity in the Texas A&M College of Science and SSP overall project manager. "For a lot of students, staying close to home is important. The fact that someone doesn't want to leave home at the age of 17 or 18 shouldn't preclude them from getting a quality, four-year education."

Yennello anticipates a minimum of 23 academically talented, financially deserving students will be recruited into scientific disciplines during the course of the five-year project. PAC will begin identifying potential Science Scholars in January 2008, both as high school seniors and from within current degree programs at PAC.

"We are eager to partner with Texas A&M-College Station on the S-STEM [Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] grant," said Dr. Ana M. "Cha" Guzmán, president of Palo Alto College. "It will give students in our community an opportunity to achieve their full potential in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

Under the existing 2+2 agreement between the two universities, all courses successfully completed at PAC will transfer to Texas A&M, and all scholars will receive assistance for any unmet financial need up to $10,000 per year during their time at PAC as well as at Texas A&M.

"Any high school student who gets accepted as a Science Scholar will be guaranteed that we will support them financially for four years, provided they remain in good academic standing and continue making progress toward their degree plan," Yennello notes. "We want them to be able to concentrate on being students and not on whether or not they will be able to pay their tuition. We want to give hope to those who might not consider college otherwise."

Yennello says the project, funded under NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program, fits nicely with the organization's goals, not to mention those of both partner institutions.

"We think Palo Alto has a lot of students with a lot of potential," she adds. "We simply are providing them with an opportunity for their top students to continue on to get their four-year degrees. Because many of them are Hispanic, we also hope to serve a group of students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines. That is the intent of the whole S-STEM Program -- to make educational opportunities available for talented students with financial need to help better prepare them for the work force or graduate school."

Besides being a win-win situation for the two universities and an organization's broader professional cause, Yennello says the program offers huge benefits for the students and their families that are well beyond the financial.

"The idea that these students can stay close to home while making progress toward a Texas A&M University degree should be a big selling point to both the students and their parents," she explains. "This program is about creating opportunities for these students, not to mention the greater San Antonio area, for the rest of their lives."

In addition to scholarships, the NSF grant will help fund a transitions program that will bring students, their families and possibly even their teachers to Texas A&M each summer for workshops and orientation programs intended to help promote the program to other students who might be looking for non-traditional ways to get a four-year education.

"We strongly believe there should be alternate pathways to a four-year Texas A&M degree," Yennello says. "One way [traditional] is already well established. However, there is a large group of students who will never be comfortable pursuing that established route. They shouldn't be deprived of an opportunity for a quality education because of that. If they have the intellectual ability and are willing to do the work, we will make sure we get the necessary funding to help them get all the way through."

An external advisory committee composed of representatives from the San Antonio Independent School District, area businesses and industry will provide external oversight for the program. The committee will be chaired by San Antonio native Dr. James R. Adams, a 1961 Texas A&M graduate and former chairman of the board for Texas Instruments who boasts a proven record of outspoken advocacy for economic development and education to benefit San Antonio as well as the entire state.

Yennello says all students who apply to PAC and express an interest in a scientific discipline will be contacted by PAC personnel concerning the Science Scholars Program. She recommends contacting an advisor in the appropriate department at either institution to get additional information about the program.

To see a list of undergraduate degrees and majors available in the Texas A&M College of Science, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/undergraduates/degrees/.

Palo Alto College, one of the Alamo Community Colleges, is a fully accredited community college located on the Southside of San Antonio, and awards associate degrees, short-term certificates and offers non-credit continuing education classes. The campus is located at 1400 W. Villaret Blvd. at I-410 South and Texas Hwy. 16 or online at www.accd.edu/pac.



Texas A&M University: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Sherry J. Yennello, (979) 845-7361 or yennello@comp.tamu.edu

Palo Alto College: Vincent Bosquez, (210) 921-5269 or vbosquez3@mail.accd.edu or Dr. Sara Wilkins, (210) 921-5295 or swilkins6@mail.accd.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Power of Potential

    New opportunities are on the horizon for San Antonio-area students interested in science careers, thanks to a new National Science Foundation-funded partnership between the Texas A&M University College of Science and Palo Alto College. (© 2005 Jason Jones Photography.)

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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