Stevens has an ambitious goal for a program meant to expand opportunities and lessen inequality.
The social movement of the spring of 2020 has inspired many to ask what they can do to confront inequality. Stevens is answering this call by seeking to achieve the ACES 500, a goal to offer 500 scholarships every year to talented students from underserved communities.
ACES, which stands for Accessing Careers in Engineering and Science, started in 2017 and builds on the university’s commitment to expand STEM education. Without scholarships, many students cannot afford to enroll and earn degrees that lead to high-paying careers.
The first undergraduates to receive ACES scholarships enrolled in 2018-19, and they are thriving. These students earned a collective GPA of 3.29, and 98% returned as sophomores. In the second year of ACES scholarships, an additional 41 students benefited, and they earned a GPA of 3.52.
ACES 500 expands this impact by offering scholarships to 100 students in every class, for a total of 400 every year. Comprehensive four-year support is vital to enable students to complete their degrees at Stevens.
“One of the goals of our strategic plan is to increase the numbers of underserved students on our campus,” said Vice President Marybeth Murphy. “With ACES, we are working to level the playing field. But these programs are not cheap. By the nature of the socioeconomic backgrounds of these students, ACES requires a lot of financial support, and for all four years, because we want the students to succeed here from the day they enroll to the day they graduate.”
The other 100 scholarships of ACES 500 will go to high school students who participate during the summer in an immersive pre-college experience. Students live in residence halls, attend courses taught by faculty, collaborate on research projects, attend workshops on college applications, tour STEM workplaces, and expand their networks during social activities and cultural excursions.
A pre-college experience can help students make what is often the first major decision of their adult lives, whether and how to apply for college. Arika, a student from Brooklyn Technical High School, gained insight about becoming a doctor after receiving a scholarship for pre-college in 2019. “I was immersed in multiple classes focused heavily on lab work,” Arika said. “I was given the opportunity to watch a live kidney tumor removal surgery at Hackensack Hospital. I learned how to ask for internships and build a profile to gain acceptance into medical school. I learned about the process colleges use to accept students, and I learned how to stand out through my application. The program helped me reconfirm my love for biology and made me realize how much I want to help people and leave my mark on the world.”
The early success of ACES has garnered attention throughout New Jersey. In October 2019, the New Jersey Technology Council selected Stevens to receive an Innovation in Education Award, and in August 2020, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association recognized Stevens with a Diversity and Inclusion Award. Earlier in 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed bipartisan legislation that identifies ACES as a model for colleges throughout the state.
However, though ACES is having an impact, students will face roadblocks without further support. In 2019, Stevens was able to provide pre-college scholarship support to only 40% of the students who were eligible for assistance. The problem is even greater at the undergraduate level. Fortunately, alumni and friends are stepping forward with inspiring support. During a summer meeting the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to reiterate the university’s commitment to ACES, and 100% of them made personal philanthropic commitments to support the initiative. President Farvardin also vowed to further his support for ACES. The generous investments that donors are making in ACES address a university goal while offering talented students a proven path to success with a Stevens degree. That is an asset that can help students improve communities across the country and add critical STEM-skilled workers to the national economy. “ACES is an extremely successful program,” said President Farvardin. “We find talented young people, we expose them to a premier STEM educational environment, and we prepare them for great jobs. We are limited only by resources.”
ACES is the way for Stevens and alumni and friends to make a difference. As the university rises to meet this moment, we invite others to stand with us. To learn more about supporting scholarships for ACES, contact Dawn da Silva at [email protected] or 201-216-5521.