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R-MC Launches Program to Support STEM Education (VIDEO)

Feb 23, 2017


April Marchetti '97, the Randolph-Macon College Garnett-Lambert Endowed Professor in Chemistry, and a team of regional collaborators, are the recipients of a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Marchetti will serve as the Primary Investigator for the Pathways to Science program, along with collaborators and R-MC Professors Rebecca Michelsen (chemistry), Rachele Dominguez (physics), Tricia Reagan (Spanish), and Laurie Massery (Spanish).Pathways to Science group photo

Marchetti, partnering with Fortune 500 companies, state Hispanic leaders, and representatives from state government, will identify and recruit Hispanic women in their freshman year of high school who show interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. The ultimate goal of the pilot project is to increase participation and leadership of Hispanic women in the STEM workforce.

Marchetti was interviewed about Pathways to Science for an article that was posted in the March 11 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This award is given in conjunction with NSF's first-ever awards for the NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program, a comprehensive initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering by broadening participation in the STEM fields.

The Pathways to Science program kicked off at a launch event on February 22, 2017 in the Dalton Room of Birdsong Hall on the Randolph-Macon College campus. Representatives from the program's key partners attended, as did R-MC President Robert R. Lindgren. Nathalie Molliet-Ribet, the Deputy Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, also attended and shared her support for the program.

Pathways to Science Program
Marchetti is part of a project team that will use the grant to fund Camino a la Ciencia (Pathways to Science): A Program Designed to Recruit, Retain, and Train Hispanic Women in STEM Disciplines. Recruitment has begun for high-school students who will attend a summer 2017 camp, held July 23-28 at R-MC, where they will engage in laboratory experiences to explore STEM disciplines and interact with researchers and other professionals from companies throughout the region. Applications for participation are available on the Pathways to Science website:

In addition to Randolph-Macon College, the project team includes The Science Museum of Virginia; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; Maymont; CodeVA; the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Dominion; WestRock; and the Office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Camp participants will engage in fun, educational activities, including shadowing and interviewing professional Hispanic women who work at some of these companies. A final project will include student-made videos of these interviews.

Students will go through a competitive application process to enroll in the program, with a target of 10-15 students who will come from Central Virginia.

Community Collaboration
"The concept of this project, as designed by Dr. Marchetti and supported by our outstanding partners, is unique and goes to the very heart of what we do best at Randolph-Macon College:  outstanding instruction tied with personal, meaningful mentorship from world-class professors," says Lindgren. "It is what our students cherish most about their college experience, and I know that the Pathways to Science program will succeed brilliantly under her leadership."

Informal Learning Programs
"Everything we do will be designed to attract young women to and keep them interested in STEM subjects," says Marchetti. Students who complete the summer camp will receive a $2,500 scholarship, which will go toward the college of their choice. The camp will again be offered in summer 2018, and students who attend both camps will receive a $5,000 scholarship to the college of their choice.

In addition, the families of camp participants will receive full-year memberships to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, the Science Museum of Virginia, and Maymont. Each of these, plus CodeVA, will offer special programs for the students and their families throughout the year to continue STEM and group engagement.

Partnerships + Commitment
"I'm honored to receive this grant," says Marchetti. "Through the generosity of the NSF, and with the support of our partners, we are able to collaborate, and to reach out and engage Hispanic women in Central Virginia with STEM by providing them access to activities and programming." The partners involved in the project share R-MC's commitment to support STEM programs.

"We are excited to be a part of this innovative collaboration that will help prepare young Hispanic women for leadership positions in critical STEM fields," says Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. "This cutting-edge work will help enhance and diversify the new Virginia economy and lay a firm foundation for the workforce of the 21st century. This project is an exciting example of what can happen when business, nonprofits, and government come together to address the needs of citizens."

"Dominion believes that promoting diversity and inclusion is vital to our business success," says Scot C. Hathaway, senior vice president, Operations, Engineering and Construction for Dominion Energy. "We're looking forward to partnering with Randolph-Macon to encourage Hispanic women to pursue careers in the STEM disciplines that are so essential to the energy business." Hathaway is the executive sponsor of ¡hola!, Dominion's Latino Employee Resource Group.

"I am thrilled that WestRock and our women of science and engineering have the opportunity to support such an important program," says Sara Andria, WestRock senior R&D scientist. "R-MC's camp will empower these young women to reach their full potential, encouraging them to build their futures around fields of study filled with overwhelming growth and opportunities."

The Path to Higher Education
R-MC's program will identify promising students during their freshman year of high school through the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Passport to Education program and regional public school allies.

"The Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation is pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Randolph-Macon College to make an impact within STEM education for Hispanic young women," says Lisa Zajur, Passport to Education Programs Creator and Coordinator for the VAHCCF.  "The purpose of the Passport to Education (Pasaporte a la Educación) initiative of the VAHCCF is to keep Hispanic students on the path to higher education, promoting STEM education to prepare our future workforce. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of our population with the highest dropout rate, causing Hispanic students to be at risk. Our Pasaporte a la Educación programs help decrease the Hispanic dropout rate, preparing students for the future job market by creating an educational path that ultimately creates an educated workforce, contributing to economic development."

The INCLUDES Program
NSF INCLUDES aims to improve access to STEM education and career pathways at the national scale, making them more widely inclusive to underserved populations. Over the next decade, NSF will expand the program, with the goal of developing a science and engineering workforce that better reflects the diversity of U.S. society.

"For more than six decades, NSF has funded the development of STEM talent, with the goals of furthering scientific discovery and ensuring the nation's security, economy and ability to innovate," says NSF Director France Córdova. "NSF INCLUDES aims to broaden participation in STEM by reaching populations traditionally underserved in science and engineering. I'm gratified to see such a strong start to this program, which we hope will be an enduring investment in our nation's future in scientific discovery and technological innovation."

April Marchetti '97
Marchetti, who earned her B.S. from Randolph-Macon College and her Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University, joined the faculty in 2001. She teaches general, analytical and instrumental chemistry.

In 2009, she developed a curriculum to facilitate students entering the field of education with majors in chemistry, and she serves as a mentor and advisor to students who elect teaching as a career. Marchetti's research interests include analytical chemistry, polymer chemistry, forensic chemistry and NMR analysis.

Marchetti was instrumental in developing new chemistry introductory courses at R-MC that meet students at their level of knowledge, and she has led innovation in using iPads in the classroom. She is also an innovator in additional blended-learning techniques such as the flipped classroom, which reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content outside of the classroom.

Marchetti serves as secretary-elect of the Phi Beta Kappa Zeta Chapter, which was recognized in 2009 as the most outstanding chapter at a liberal arts college in the United States. She also serves as faculty secretary for Omicron Delta Kappa, the college's leadership honorary organization.

In 2015, Marchetti received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support "The Randolph-Macon College Noyce Teacher/Scholar Program - A Program Designed to Recruit, Train, and Support Well-Qualified Chemistry, Biology, and Physics Teachers." The five-year, $1,199,276 grant is the largest single grant in the history of Randolph-Macon College.