$2.24 million grant will major boost to Livingstone College STEM programs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2021

SALISBURY — Livingstone College has received $2.24 million from the National Science Foundation, the largest grant in the school’s history.

The grant will fund a program called Livingwell@Livingstone, which is focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and hopes to improve retention and graduation rates in underrepresented minority students. The program will create opportunities as early as freshman year for students to explore the commercial potential of research and how it addresses community challenges. The program also will leverage partnerships with community science entrepreneurs to expand research into the field.

Math and science Dean Dawn McNair said the project will advance the capability to meet current and future challenges of food production and accessibility, renewable energy and artificial intelligence. McNair said it also will provide a support structure to share wins, set goals and solve peer challenges related to the STEM student experience.

“We are excited about the opportunity to implement Livingwell@Livingstone. This project will equip students with the needed skills to meet the STEM workforce demand and be valuable contributors to the future of scientific enterprise,” McNair said.

The award comes as Livingstone is preparing to move into its new 16,000-square-foot F. George Shipman Science Annex. The annex will feature dedicated laboratory and research spaces for microbiology, human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and general chemistry, with smaller laboratory spaces for specialized research and a tissue culture lab.

A highlight of the new annex is the planetarium and immersion theater, where students can have a virtual reality experience in human anatomy, physics, astronomy and earth science. The annex also includes a classroom to facilitate active and collaborative learning and a hydroponic greenhouse.

“This grant is fundamental in support of our renewed focus on the STEM curriculum,” said Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins. “We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for this historic and generous grant award, and for their investment in Livingstone College.”

Black student enrollment in STEM fields is declining. The proportion of bachelor’s degrees in science awarded to Black graduates remained flat at about 9% from 2001 to 2016, according to the most recent figures from the National Science Foundation. In engineering, it declined from 5% to 4%. In math, it dropped from 7% to 4%.

In response to that, Livingstone College is offering grant-in-aid to any new student who chooses a STEM major, meaning their education is free after federal financial aid is considered. The grants-in-aid are not part of the grant funding.

“We are intentional in creating concrete solutions to assist students who are interested in these majors by making college affordable,” Jenkins said. “Furthermore, this grant will provide our STEM students with research opportunities and experience that will position them to be more marketable post-graduation for viable employment in their field.”