Engineering student success

NSF grant to fund student scholarships

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 2, 2019) — Kennesaw State University was awarded a $997,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve gender diversity among the institution’s engineering programs and to increase degree success for academically talented students with demonstrated financial need.  

Lori Lowder and Chan Ham
Lori Lowder and Chan Ham
Led by Lori Lowder, assistant dean for accreditation and assessment in Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET), the grant will fund scholarships for 32 first- and third-year engineering majors with renewal of up to four years and two years, respectively. Wraparound services also will be provided to support the selected students who will participate in academic and co-curricular activities focused on how to pursue rewarding and successful engineering careers.

“This grant affords us the opportunity to help meet the national demand for well-educated STEM majors who might not otherwise pursue engineering due to their economic situation,” said Lowder, the grant’s principal investigator.

The grant was made possible through NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, which aims to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation of high achieving low-income students in STEM through financial and programmatic support.

Lowder explained that part of the programmatic support will come in the form of guidance and focused efforts by SPCEET faculty, advisors and staff, and industry partners to cultivate a broader sense of community among the students and improve gender diversity in engineering. Though women make up more than half of the U.S.  population, they only earned 20 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees in 2014, according to the NSF. Through the grant, the University aims to create a more inclusive academic environment and cultivate a sense of belonging for engineering students, particularly women.

“We want our students not only to gain hands-on experiences that will make them better engineers, but also create a more inclusive academic environment that takes shape around those experiences,” said Lowder. 

The S-STEM program will build upon several successful programs already in place at Kennesaw State, she added. The University’s engineering living-learning community, for example, provides first-year engineering students opportunities to connect with faculty and alumni in the field of engineering, and to live in close proximity to peers for forming study groups. In addition to workshops provided by other campus departments, the engineering college has established its own Peer Mentoring Center, where students offer peer-based academic support for a selection of engineering and engineering technology courses.

In addition, the five-year grant will support STEM outreach efforts, networking opportunities with industry partners and undergraduate research experiences facilitated by SPCEET faculty in various disciplines.

“We are so excited not only to play a role supporting our underrepresented students pursuing engineering degrees, but to increase our contribution to the greater University through the creation of scholarship and research opportunities,” said Chan Ham, SPCEET’s assistant dean for research and graduate programs, who also serves as one of the grant’s co-investigators. “This program will undoubtedly raise the profile of our engineering programs across the board.”

The other co-investigators on the project include Renee Butler, associate dean for academics, Tris Utschig, director for scholarly teaching in KSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning, and Valmiki Sooklal, associate professor of mechanical engineering.   

—Joëlle Walls

Related Stories



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit