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'Choose Ohio First' awards $1.2 million in new funding for BW STEM Scholars

This latest grant will support scholarships for BW students studying in a variety of STEM programs with a special focus on healthcare careers.

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The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) has awarded $1.2 million in new Choose Ohio First (COF) grants to Baldwin Wallace University in the fifth round of funding under the program.

COF scholarships aim to significantly strengthen Ohio's competitiveness within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and math and science education.

"The strength of Ohio's economy depends on having a skilled workforce in the STEM fields," said Chancellor Randy Gardner. "Baldwin Wallace University has done a great job of preparing its STEM scholars, and I am pleased to have BW among the latest Choose Ohio First awardees."

BW's new COF project is "Addressing Healthcare Disparities in Rural Communities." The goal is to leverage the strengths of programs in BW's School of Science and Engineering and College of Education and Health Sciences to recruit, educate and graduate students to meet regional and state-wide workforce needs in the healthcare sector with special attention on rural healthcare disparities. 

Support for undergraduate and graduate students

The new "Baldwin Wallace University STEM Healthcare Scholars Program" will include support for both graduate and undergraduate students in a range of majors. 

"This mixed cohort of bachelor's and post-baccalaureate degree seekers offers many potential synergies, including informal mentoring and coaching, enhanced retention of undergraduate STEM students and even possible pathways for STEM undergraduates into BW graduate programs," noted Dr. Jim McCargar, founding dean of BW's School of Science and Engineering.

Community Partnerships

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The program also aims to leverage public and private partnerships to offer internship and other work-based learning opportunities for students. 

"These student experiences will focus directly and indirectly on initiatives and programs that will have an impact on the quality of life and healthcare access for residents of rural as well as urban Ohio," adds Thomas S. Campanella, BW healthcare executive-in-residence. Campanella has published papers and conducted interviews focused on the healthcare and quality of life challenges in rural America.

Meeting workforce needs

The academic programs selected for this project are aligned to meet the talent and workforce needs of regional and state-wide businesses and industries in in-demand healthcare occupations. They include undergraduate programs in nursing, public health, exercise science and communication disorders sciences, as well as graduate programs in physician assistant and speech-language pathology, with additional programs in development.

"We appreciate the state's confidence in our health science disciplines, and we are prepared to train the next generation of healthcare providers to address the state's workforce needs in these areas," said Dr. Stephen W. Dittmore, dean of BW's College of Education and Health Sciences.

Strong, broad STEM support at BW

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BW has received substantial awards in each of the previous four rounds of funding to support the University's robust STEM Scholars programming and establish renewable scholarships. More than 433 undergraduate students have been selected for BW's Choose Ohio First STEM Scholars program since its inception in 2008, the first year that COF funds were made available.

The last round of funding focused on meeting the STEM talent needs of the regional and state-wide manufacturing sector.

The prior round supported one-year MAEd programs in Science Teaching and Math Teaching to address the shortage of qualified STEM teachers. At the close of the 2023-24 academic year, 15 new teachers will be in STEM classrooms as licensed teachers, supported by Choose Ohio First.   

COF funding has also supported public health majors completing BW's Primary Healthcare Advancement program, an exclusive pre-med track for aspiring primary care physicians that offers opportunities for early acceptance to medical school.

Improving the pipeline

According to the state COF website, "Choose Ohio First funds higher education and business collaborations that will have the most impact on Ohio's position in world markets such as aerospace, medicine, and information technology. These collaborations will ultimately produce substantive improvements to the pipeline of STEM graduates and STEM educators in Ohio."

Incoming BW students will be eligible to apply for the newly funded COF STEM scholarships in 2024.

For more information about BW's Choose Ohio First grants, qualifying majors and contact information, visit Baldwin Wallace University STEM Scholars Program.

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