Faculty from Jackson State University and Penn State University have selected 16 JSU students to receive a $5,500 award through the Future Geoscientists for a Sustainable Earth Environment (FGSEE) scholarship program.
Funding for the scholarships, which total $88,000, comes from the National Science Foundation’s Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences program, which seeks to increase the number of African Americans and other minorities in geoscience careers.
“Among the STEM areas, which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the geosciences have the lowest percentage of African Americans,” said JSU interim provost Dr. Quinton Williams. “We’re trying to increase the number of minorities in the geoscience fields.”
Jackson State’s partnership with Penn State started in the fall of 2008, when JSU started offering a Bachelor of Science degree program in Earth system science. Jackson State is the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the nation that offers this degree program.
Jackson State was funded by the National Science Foundation because of the university’s academic quality and the fact that most African Americans with degrees in science earn them at an HBCU. Through JSU’s partnership with Penn State, graduates from Jackson State’s Earth system science program will be eligible to receive scholarships to continue their master’s and doctoral studies at Penn State.
“These students are high-quality and have a serious worth ethic,” said Dr. Tanya Furman, a key collaborator who is a professor of geosciences and the assistant vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education at Penn State University. “For Penn State to be able to play a role in their education is a great opportunity.”
The renewable scholarships are available to minority students who major in the geosciences or closely related areas of science, such as Earth system science, meteorology, physics, environmental science or chemistry. The selected scholars are expected to become graduates who have the potential to help sustain the Earth’s environment through research and service.
“The students were all chosen on merit,” said Dr. Wilbur Walters, interim chair of JSU’s Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences and Geoscience. “Each one of them exudes not only an academic desire but also a desire to excel in their field.”
Earth system science is an emerging field that integrates geology, atmospheric science, oceanography, physics and other disciplines to understand how land, air, water and space are interconnected.
“The field is designed to generate a new type of scientist for the 21st century,” Williams said. “We have some serious environmental problems we need to tackle.”