STEM, Sustainability, and Scholarship

An S-STEM grant from the NSF will help the Nelson Institute train the next community of interdisciplinary sustainability scholars.

Community Environmental Scholars Program
Community Environmental Scholars Program

“I believe the Nelson Institute is the only part of campus that has ever successfully won a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant,” says Rob Beattie, his voice tinged with excitement and pride. Beattie is the codirector of the Nelson Institute’s Community Environmental Scholars Program (CESP) and one of the co-principal investigators who helped secure the grant: an impressive $1.5 million with $900,000 going directly to student support.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides S-STEM grants — or “scholarships in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” — to help institutions attract, fund, and support low-income students interested in STEM fields. “Our proposal was to support at least 20 low-income STEM students from freshman year to graduation with scholarships of up to $10,000 per year, and at least six STEM transfer students,” explains Beattie. 

National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation

The grant (award # 2221468) is led by an impressive collection of Nelson Institute faculty: Andrea Hicks, Hanson Family Fellow in Sustainability and director of sustainability education and research; Paul Robbins, dean and Nelson-Hanson Chair in Environmental Studies; Beattie; Carol Barford, director of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment; and Becky Larson, associate professor of environmental studies.

“I believe the Nelson Institute is the only part of campus that has ever successfully won a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant.” — Rob Beattie

What sets this S-STEM grant apart is its sustainability focus. In addition to choosing a STEM major, recipients will complete the sustainability certificate. Officially called “Challenging Problems and Sustainable Solutions: Training a Community of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Scholars,” the scholarship combines aspects of CESP and the Office of Sustainability’s internship program.

Like CESP, it will follow a cohort model: students will take a special first-year seminar that introduces them to sustainability on campus and shows them how their STEM major links with sustainability. In their junior and senior years, students will automatically be admitted to CESP. In the summer following their first year, students will have the opportunity for a paid internship through the Office of Sustainability.

“This grant gives us an opportunity to reach out to students who might not otherwise consider UW–Madison or programs within the Nelson Institute,” says Beattie, “and offer them the kind of financial help that they need to come to UW–Madison.” 

Applications will open early next year on the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub, and the first cohort will be admitted for Fall 2023. For more information, contact Rob Beattie.