NW Ohio gets $3M to tout environmental, energy careers


More than $3 million will be invested in northwest Ohio to entice students to study renewable energy and sustainable environment technologies.

The area's public universities and community colleges are working together on a state-supported program to recruit, train, and graduate scientists to enter this growing career field.

A $1.56 million grant through the Choose Ohio First Scholarship will be shared by the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College, Terra Community College, and Northwest State Community College.

It's matched with local funding for a more than $3 million investment for the Building Ohio's Sustainable Energy Future program.

The local award is part of $13.3 million given by the state for collaborations to encourage STEM education, an increas-ingly popular acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines.

"There are needs for students and technologists to do work in this area," said Geoffrey Martin, interim associate dean for the natural sciences and math at UT.

The grant program is primarily for student scholarships with up to $4,750 available to participants. In its first year, the program expects about 25 students, with 158 participants through the five-year program, Mr. Martin said.

The scholarships will offset the costs of a summer bridge program and courses at the colleges and universities. In addition, stipends will be available for research projects.

UT has drawn on its experien-

ces in the solar energy fields and its relationships with industry to help create internship opportunities for the participants, because hands-on learning is important for student retention in the sciences, Mr. Martin said.

BGSU is contributing its successful bridge program AIMS, which stands for Academic Investment in Math and Science.

During its eight years, the program has increased its graduation rate to 67 percent, much higher than four-year institution graduation rates of 15 percent to 25 percent, said T. Carter Gilmer, AIMS director. "We graduate and retain our students, and we do it by focusing on mathematics, which is the language of scientists and engineers," he said.

That five-week summer program is being incorporated into this grant-funded one to keep students in the STEM fields, with the focus of encouraging them to study alternative energy and environmental sustainability.

The head start is important because the first semester can be the most difficult, and if a student fails the exams early, he or she likely won't recover because the lessons build onto each other, Mr. Gilmer said.

The community colleges will play a role in recruiting students to higher education with lower tuition and encouraging them to continue on and pursue bachelor's and advanced degrees at the universities, said Nancy Sattler, dean of the arts and sciences and business division of Terra Community College.

University and college leaders agree alternative energy will be the economic driver of the future and it's positive that all the learning institutions are working together to lead students down that path.

"It's really enhanced the lines of communication between community colleges and universities," Ms. Sattler said. "Instead of us being in competition, we are in collaboration.

"To me, that's very important to share what we do best and help one another so the students do better and that's the bottom line, helping the students," she said.

- Meghan Gilbert