Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

National Science Foundation grant will aid EWU STEM students


Attending college can be a big challenge in the first place. But add to that over 40 percent of students at Eastern Washington University are first generation attendees, plus the need for many to work while in school and the outcome can be further daunting.

Now, with the help of a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant, students pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will have an opportunity to improve their end result — that being better grades and better jobs prospects — with the assistance of paid tuition and professional development.

EWU’s College of Science, Health and Engineering will initiate a five-year project to help first-generation and underrepresented students as they pursue STEM degrees. More than $500,000 of the grant is dedicated to scholarships,as EWU will support 36 upper-division students, according to Joanna Joyner-Matos, assistant professor, in the Department of Biology at Eastern.

“The NSF is concerned that the United States is making lots of graduates in the STEM program, but our STEM graduates are not competitive,” Joyner-Matos said.

One of those reasons students are not competitive in the job market is that they come out of college not having learned as much as they could have because they’re working, Joyner-Matos said.

“They take classes and leave,” she said. “They are not taking advantage of all the opportunities on campus, which includes tutoring, internships and more. They’re off some place trying to make ends meet.”

NSF’s idea of tackling this nationwide problem is to pay for school. This is especially true at Eastern where 80 percent of the student body works, Joyner-Matos explained. “It you’re working 15, 20, 30, 40 hours a week, you just don’t do as well.”

This new grant allows nine STEM students to receive a scholarship of up to $7,000 per year for two years to attend school. “The hope is that it is enough money they will quit their jobs,” Joyner-Matos said.

In addition, students in the program will have access to career services. “Every month our students will do some sort of activity, either community service or professional development to help them maximize their success,” Joyner-Matos explained.

Assisting Joyner-Matos on the project are Rebecca Brown, associate professor of biology, Nicholas Burgis, associate professor of chemistry and Carmen Nezat, associate professor of geology at Eastern.

For more information on this program, visit or contact Joanna Joyner-Matos at 509.359.2361 or

Paul Delaney can be reached at

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