College wins grant to close STEM gender gap


VanderWerf Hall at Hope College houses the departments of computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics. Photo via

A college in the region has received a grant to “address” the gender gap in STEM fields.

Hope College said this month it won the $223,621 Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Research award from the New York-based Henry Luce Foundation to support female students pursuing degrees in computer science, engineering and physics.

Starting this spring, the grant will provide funding for about seven students each year for three years.

The students will participate in collaborative faculty-student research full-time during the summers following their freshman and sophomore years.

They will then complete internships with area companies during their junior years.

Throughout their time in the program, the students will also be mentored by a female professional working in their area of study.

The students’ activities will include organizing and leading community outreach events facilitated by the college’s ExploreHope program and Women in Science and Engineering organization for girls in the area. Once they have graduated, they will also each mentor a college student for a year.

“Nationwide, far more men than women pursue degrees and careers in computer science, engineering and physics,” said Ryan McFall, a professor of computer science at Hope College and the grant’s principal investigator.

“The award from the Henry Luce Foundation will help us address the disparity by expanding our proven model of involving students in mentored research and active learning experiences and providing mentors who will serve as a supportive example of what our students’ careers can look like.”

A previous grant to Hope College through the Henry Luce Foundation provided scholarships and summer research experiences from 2004 through 2007 for four women majoring in the physical sciences at the college.

All four continue to work in science-related careers, including Courtney Peckens, who graduated in 2006 and returned to the college in 2013 as an assistant professor of engineering.

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