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College of Saint Mary Awarded NASA Grant to Increase Retention of Women in STEM Degree Programs, Careers

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. – College of Saint Mary (CSM) was one of seven women’s colleges throughout the United States to be awarded a portion of $5 million in funding from NASA to research and develop strategies that increase retention of women in STEM degree programs and careers. The agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project created the Women’s Colleges and Universities opportunity to help women overcome obstacles and barriers to working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

This award seeks to address the significant national gender gap and disparate experiences of women in STEM in the United States, both in higher education and the workforce. “This is a very exciting first; we’re making strides to close the pervasive gender gap in STEM, and Women’s Colleges and Universities are well-positioned to help drive that positive change,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “It’s more important than ever we have brilliant, enthusiastic people entering the workforce and ready to take on the ambitious plans and challenges ahead.”

Created in response to the White House Executive Order 14035 “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce,” this funding opportunity asked Women’s Colleges and Universities to take advantage of their expertise by developing programs that encompass academics, research, student support, college prep, career prep, mentoring and more. NASA explores the unknown for all, and values diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for the future STEM and agency workforce.

Dr. Ganesh Naik, director of the chemistry and environmental sustainability programs and professor of chemistry at CSM, successfully applied for the grant. CSM was awarded more than $615,000 to provide scholarships to community college transfer students interested in a career in STEM. “The goals of this program align with College of Saint Mary’s mission and strategic initiatives to provide access to an affordable education and to grow our inclusive campus culture,” said Dr. Kimberly Allen, CSM vice president of academic and student affairs. “Furthermore, the program aims to create a holistic development model of STEM education for women.”

The purpose of the program is to improve access to education, strengthen academic support services and empower women to mitigate barriers to completing a four-year degree in STEM which aligns with the CSM mission. The gender gap is reflected in education and workforce data. Women earn 59% of undergraduate degrees compared to 41% of men, but only 10% of women’s degrees are in a STEM field as stated by the National Center of Education Statistics. This pattern follows women into the workplace, where they represent about 47% of the workforce, but only 27% of STEM jobs as stated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

CSM currently has a federally funded Marie Curie Scholarship program in partnership with the National Science Foundation which recruits high school students interested in STEM majors. This scholarship increases the number of women in STEM fields by providing competitive, four-year STEM scholarships each year.

CSM offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in career-focused, in-demand programs, including physician assistant studies, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing science, education, business, and legal studies. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit