Low-income students interested in high-wage science and engineering careers can now apply for the Oregon Pathways to Industrial Research Careers grant for up to $45,000 of tuition assistance on a bachelor’s or master’s degree path.
Over a four-year school journey, “students may qualify for up to $45,000 in scholarships” out of 64 selected scholarships, the NSF Science Pathways webpage says. NSF Science Pathways is the University of Oregon system collaborating with UCC to administer the OPIRC grants as well as provide mentoring, team-building activities and networking opportunities for science students. The OPIRC grants come from the larger $4.3 million National Science Foundation grant that currently supports science majors.
Students accepted to the program start on the last year of their community college journey and will continue for “two years at UO getting your bachelor’s and then the master’s program is 18 months,” says Lawrence (Mick) Davis, UCC’s OPIRC program coordinator and physical science professor.
Students accepted in the OPIRC program who elect to continue into the master’s program will earn their master’s through Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program. The program guarantees that, after completing the OPIRC program, students will get “industry employment through a 9-month paid industry internship within the manufacturing, high-tech and healthcare field (specifically: semiconductors, optics, polymers, sensors, and bioinformatics),” NSF Science Pathways says. About 98% of students who complete their internships are hired with a high-wage job after three months of graduation, according to NSF Science Pathways.
When entering into an academic program, some wonder what the timeline might look like to graduate. “It could be as little as four years, but for most students, it probably will be more like five,” Davis says.
Davis advises students to contact him if they have an interest in the OPIRC program so that they can get all the information they need to make informed decisions for applying. “I’ll talk to them about what their plans are, we’ll look at their courses, stuff they already have taken, and what they would need to take to get on track,” Davis says. Davis explains “the scholarships will kick in” during a student’s last year at a community college. “How much of the scholarship you can get per year is capped at $10,000 and that’s depending on your economic situation.”
Currently the application for the 2023-24 academic year is open.
Davis explains that students can still get benefits from this program’s mentoring even if they don’t win a scholarship grant. Those that don’t have financial aid, “can still definitely be a part of the program and participate and receive the mentorship and the advising and all of those things,” Davis says.
The program has the potential to grow. “Within our first year of launching OPIRC, we believe we will have the capacity to expand mentoring opportunities to students who do not meet full OPIRC criteria,” NSF Science Pathways says Frequently Asked Questions page.
Students who want to hear directly from the NSF Science Pathways program at UO can reach out to Dean Livelybrooks, the co-director and a UO STEM CORE senior instructor, at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to a list for updates.
OPIRC scholarship’s mission “is to cover unmet need,” NSF Science Pathways says. If a student is accepted into the OPIRC scholarship, NSF will calculate the amount given to a student by subtracting the amout of FAFSA from other scholarships that the student has earned. The maximum amount a student will be able to obtain is $10,000 for the final year of community college, $10,000 for the final two years at the University of Oregon and $15,000 for enrollment at the UO Knight Center Graduate Internship Program.
Students in OPIRC, while finishing their last year at community college, will be able to go to UO twice a year to meet with the staff who will be assisting them. They’ll also be able to meet UO students already engaged in the program. “You’ll get to meet the mentors face-to-face, you’ll get to meet the staff at UO face-to-face and tour the facilities and the campus if you want,” Davis says. These meetings are to help give students more of a connection with their mentors since the rest of their meetings will be over Zoom.
Students who continue through the program don’t have to become a mentor but can apply for the position once they have transferred to a four-year college. “Usually, we’ll have two sets of mentors. So here at UCC, you can have a mentor that is at UO, just a little ahead of you in the program, and a mentor that is actually in the master program, almost finished with the whole thing,” Davis says. If students want to become a mentor, they need to go to the NSF Science Pathways webpage and click the three yellow lines, then click mentorship.
Davis advises students to contact him at email@example.com if they have an interest in the OPIRC program. “I’ll talk to them about what their plans are, we’ll look at their courses, stuff they already have taken, and what they would need to take to get on track.”
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