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By Molly Houts

Published 11:42 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2023

A new opportunity for students interested in STEM fields at Bemidji State University has become a highlight for the whole university.  

BSU has recently been awarded a $2.5 million S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation that will benefit current and future low-income students who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in an approved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) discipline. Students who qualify can receive up to $15,000 a year for five years toward tuition and other unmet needs, based upon financial need. The grant will be used to support around 50 students over the next six years. 

“It’s more than just money. The STEM Scholars Program also provides a holistic social and academic support system for students,” said Dr. Katie Peterson, a professor of chemistry at Bemidji State and a principal investigator on the project. “The whole goal is to provide opportunities for students in STEM who are low-income and academically promising.” 

Further support includes a learning community with faculty and peers, development of life and career skills, collaboration with TRIO Student Support Services and partake in research projects in partnerships with faculty.  

With the grant, the program seeks to administer opportunities for students who are marginalized within the STEM community. By being given this funding, BSU aims to diversify the local STEM workforce through supporting students financially and emotionally. 

“(It’s a) pathway out of poverty program,” said Dr. Rebecca Hoffman, a professor of social work at BSU and a co-PI on the project. 

The STEM Scholars program will additionally work with Peacemaker Resources to provide training for students to acquire emotional intelligence skills to be successful in the classroom.  The skills learned from this project will jumpstart students' ultimate prosperity in the STEM workforce. Students will also have access to positive mentors within their respected field and an active learning community.  

Professors will also partake in culturally responsive training in which they will learn teaching strategies to improve student success in their classroom. Integrating culturally responsive pedagogy and social-emotional learning into professors teaching toolbelt will continue to benefit all Bemidji State STEM students even when the grant ends. 

“Our program is built on a holistic, resilience-focused model designed to cultivate a sense of belonging for diverse cohorts of low-income students enabling them to persist and succeed in STEM. Scholars will be supported financially, socially, academically and professionally,” said Hoffman.  

Using this framework will reconstruct how students are taught in the classroom by promoting a sense of commonality among students to help them achieve their future endeavors. These skills will also be useful for students' interpersonal relationships, improved self-efficacy and strengthen self-management.  

The project is currently recruiting students for the 2024-25 academic year. Current and future students are encouraged to apply. BSU is working with the transfer admissions team as well as the American Indian Resource Center and Upward Bound Programs to spread the word about the opportunity for students at BSU. 

Bemidji State’s S-STEM grant team consisted of Hillary Barron, Anna Carlson, Todd Frauenholtz, Holly LaFerriere, Kjerstin Owens, Kelli Steggall, Jeff Ueland, Hoffman and Peterson.  

To learn more about the program or to apply visit or contact  

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