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Student Support Services receives nearly $3M in federal grants
September 17, 2015Tweet
Binghamton University’s Student Support Services (SSS) program, a federally funded TRiO program that provides eligible students with academic, career and personal counseling; tutoring; and assistance obtaining financial aid, has received a five-year renewal grant totaling more than $1.8 million.
A second five-year grant totaling $1.1 million was also renewed to support students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Marty Wygmans, executive director of student services, said programs must meet numerous objectives to be successful in the competitive grant process. “Once you have funding, you receive points for meeting your objectives,” she said. “Having these ‘experience points’ helps going into the grant renewal process. On our original grant, existing programs like ours had to score at total of 106 or they wouldn’t be funded. We scored 104, plus had the maximum number of experience points (15), for a total of 119.”
Wygmans said the same process was followed for the STEM grant renewals, though the necessary point totals differed. “The STEM grant was only eligible for 11 experience points, and we received a perfect score for that renewal.”
Nearly 1,500 proposals were received for both grants, and the U.S. Department of Education funded 968 of them, Wygmans said. “And we got two of them.”
These grants promote academic success and personal growth for students who are first-generation, low-income or disabled. Accepted students are identified for the program based on their FAFSA, and invited to participate, said Wygmans. “The students are distributed between the two grant programs. For STEM students, they must have a declared interest in a STEM field.”
At Binghamton, the classic grant serves 400 students and the STEM grant serves 120 students.
Anthony Guo, now a junior electrical engineering major, received support through the STEM grant. Originally not planning to attend the SSS summer program (S4P) before his freshman year, he changed his mind and ended up becoming friends with many of the other incoming students he met there.
“Participating in SSS programs allowed me to become more connected with Binghamton University,” Guo said. “One of the requirements to get grant aid money is to attend at least three cultural events, which helps me to interact and attend events hosted by different Binghamton clubs. SSS also provides counseling, which helps me to become a better student by vocalizing my problems and concerns with classes.”
Senior Anlly Palacios is a McNair Scholar majoring in sociology, who credits the SSS program with helping her to develop leadership skills. “I have been able to take up several different leadership roles, such as the professional chair and vice-president of International Connection, and programming assistant intern in the Multicultural Resource Center,” she said. She has also worked during the summer for New Student Programs, as desk assistant in the Science Library, and is the current vice-president of the McNair Scholars executive board.
A highlight of the SSS program for students is the counseling they receive. “The exceptional counselors are a great support system,” said Palacios, who hopes to pursue a doctorate after graduation. “Without them, I do not think I would have been able to make it this far.”
The S4P introduces students to the many resources on campus before their freshman year begins, helping to smooth their transition into college life. “Through this program, I learned that there are always resources available but one must know to reach out and ask for help when you really need it,” Palacios said. “I learned that I am not alone in college after all.”
Like Guo, senior Lily Kuong is an electrical engineering major, and like other SSS STEM program students, she benefited from that extra push to get involved in campus STEM-related organizations. Her counselor, Stephen Rebello, SSS assistant director, suggested clubs including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Engineers Without Borders and Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. Last year, she was an undergraduate course assistant and external event coordinator for SWE. This year, she is vice president of Tau Beta Pi National Honor Society and the secretary of Eta Kappa Nu National Honor Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Kuong met her roommate during S4P. “S4P helped us build our own community and as a senior, I still remain in contact with most of my friends from the week of S4P in Binghamton,” she said. “My roommate and I are now presidents or vice presidents of different organizations. I think we inspired each other to be active and get involved on campus.”
Kuong also credits SSS counselors with tremendous support. “Whenever I was confused or upset, I would walk into SSS and talk to whomever about my problems,” she said. “I remember crying in their office about my family refusing to evacuate our home in Coney Island during Hurricane Sandy and about changing majors and different career paths. No words can describe the amount of support this program provides for undergraduate students.
“This program is the reason why I am the student I am today,” Kuong added. “When I was a freshman, my major was biochemistry and I wanted to be a dermatologist. Now, as a senior, I’m majoring in electrical engineering, doing a co-op with Microchip and conducting research with Dr. Skormin about Network Security. I have to thank SSS for all my successes. In fact, because of SSS, I was honored with the President’s Award for Undergraduate Excellence in my junior year.”