Project SOAR: Scholarships, Opportunities, Achievements, and Results at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is recruiting, retaining, and graduating financially needy and academically talented students - SOAR scholars - who will enter the workforce in a STEM-related profession or enter graduate school in a STEM discipline. Towards these ends, Project SOAR is awarding scholarships to three cohorts of 19 freshmen matriculating at NKU and providing each student with a four-year scholarship, the first two years being paid from grant funds and the last two paid by the university.
Specific Project SOAR objectives are to: (a) increase the enrollment in STEM majors of undergraduates who are from groups underrepresented in STEM, including women in the physical sciences, technology, mathematics, and computer science, and first-generation students, ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities in all STEM fields; (b) provide improved educational opportunities and student support programs in the STEM fields so that SOAR scholars can achieve their best academic performance; (c) increase the retention and graduation rates for SOAR scholars compared to similar populations in both the STEM disciplines and the university as a whole; (d) reduce the time to graduation for SOAR scholars compared to similar populations of STEM majors attending NKU at the same time; (e) increase the number of STEM graduates who enter and remain in the workforce in a STEM-related professional job or enter graduate school in a STEM discipline; and (f) contribute to the economic development goals of northern Kentucky by preparing well educated STEM graduates who enter the workforce in a STEM-related profession.
The project is a collaboration of five academic departments - biological sciences, chemistry, physics & geology, mathematics, and computer science - and is housed in NKU's Center for Integrative Natural Sciences and Mathematics. To attract high school students to the scholarship opportunities, Project SOAR's leadership team plus NKU faculty and admissions personnel are aggressively recruiting students who are underrepresented in STEM disciplines by focusing on urban schools with large ethnic minority populations and low-income students, and rural schools with very low college-going rates. SOAR scholars have access to all existing support services at the university plus extensive additional support designed to ensure that they excel academically. Key elements of Project SOAR include: faculty mentors, a year-long freshman seminar; a year-long learning community; an opportunity for residential students to live together; high quality enrichment activities; opportunities for research, internships, and co-op experiences; and academic support services such as peer mentoring and tutoring.