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$30,000 grant will expand STEM lab

2020-07-13-STEM-lab-grant
UNG reaped a boost in funding in June 2020 to help expand its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lab. The John and Mary Franklin Foundation awarded a $30,000 grant to UNG's College of Science and Mathematics. The money will fund the professors' stipends and learning assistants' pay to teach the three-hour STEM lab course.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) reaped a boost in funding in June 2020 to help expand its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lab.

The John and Mary Franklin Foundation awarded a $30,000 grant to UNG's College of Science and Mathematics. For the next three years, the foundation will distribute $10,000 each year to the school. It will fund the professors' stipends and learning assistants' pay to teach the three-hour STEM lab course.

The Franklin Foundation advances healthy regional development through charitable grants that promote scientific research and knowledge-based technology, prepare underserved populations for participation in the economy or enrich humanity by strengthening and empowering children and families in need.

Dr. John Leyba, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said the grant arrived at an opportune moment due to anticipated budget cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was relived to receive the letter that the foundation was committed to giving UNG the grant," he said. "In light of potential budget cuts, this will relieve pressure on us and let us move forward with the STEM lab."

Originally funded by the Complete College Georgia initiative, the STEM lab features a trio of faculty members teaching freshmen and sophomores about biology, chemistry and physics. Students also collaborate on real-world issues, conduct research projects and compare their work to professional scientists.

"The STEM lab has multiple benefits for students," Leyba said. "It introduces students to undergraduate research early in their college careers. If they get involved in the high-impact practice of research, then they will continue as a STEM major."

The dean said the holistic and real-world approach in class teaches students how to deal with multiple facets of different projects or problems.

"It also enhances their critical thinking skills," Leyba said.

Based on the program's success, the University System of Georgia's (USG) STEM IV initiative awarded $150,000 to UNG in fall 2019 to expand the STEM lab. For five years, the STEM lab was only offered in the spring semesters on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. Now, the three-hour-credit lab will be available to freshmen and sophomores in the fall, too.

While the USG STEM IV initiative supplies money for the three-year expansion, UNG will share the cost.

"We will have to fund 25% for the first year, 30% for the second year and 40% for the third year," Leyba said. "It amounts to $47,500 in total cost sharing. The Franklin Foundation's grant will help pay for a portion of UNG's share."

Leyba credited UNG Board of Trustee Shelton Prince, '65, for connecting the school with the foundation.

"Shelton was aware from his work in the banking world of the John and Mary Franklin Foundation," Leyba said. "He got us the meeting, went with us and broke the ice for us. Had it not been for him, I don't think we could have had that meeting."

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