0605 Hartsville Rotary

Dr. Joe Flaherty, science professor at Coker College, was the guest speaker at Hartsville Rotary Club on Tuesday at the Hartsville Country Club.

HARTSVILLE, S.C . – A science professor at Coker College told Hartsville Rotarians on Tuesday that the college is working to get more low-income students into biology.

The professor, Joe Flaherty, spoke at the Hartsville Country Club.

He came to Coker College in 2005 and has since been involved in a program to recruit, retain and graduate low-income students in Coker College’s Scholars in Biology (SSB) program.

“If someone comes in and says they are interested in biology, we have to remove the barriers,” he said.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of talented biology majors who will eventually graduate and go on to contribute in scientific endeavors, he said.

To achieve this goal, Flaherty said, Coker is involved in a multi-institutional research project using a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program (NSF S-STEM). Coker is collaborating with several other schools. The schools chose to concentrate on biology because they all had biology majors, he said.

The NSF program is funded by fees paid for H-1B work visas, he said.

Flaherty said that in late 2015, six partnering schools came together to build a grant submission to NSF S-STEM Track III. He said their goal was “to produce a scalable model of institutional collaboration, particularly for under-resourced colleges.”

He said there are three tracks, design and development, single institution and multi-institution. In the collaboration with Coker College is Mercy College in New York, College of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey and Ferrum College in Virginia. He said Mercy College has about 9,000 students, whereas, the others have about 1,000 students each.

They were selected for funding in 2017 with the first students accepted in 2018.

The group of colleges supports 114 academically talented, low-income students with scholarships to off-set the cost of attending college. Thirty-six of those students are at Coker College. These students were awarded an average of $6,000 per year over a four-year period, along with a free high-quality laptop computer, mentoring and involvement in research projects, he said.

Flaherty said the recruiting outcome at Coker College is that of the “largest incoming class of biology majors in the history of Coker, with 25 percent of the total incoming biology cohort represented in the S-STEM program.”

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