$900k for Choose Ohio First

Students in STEM received money to assist them in research projects. Photo by Shianna Gibbons / The Jambar

By Shianna Gibbons

The Ohio Department of Higher Education awarded $896,000 to Youngstown State University’s Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program.

The Choose Ohio First program is a state-funded scholarship program that supports students in STEM fields. Its focuses include economics, engineering, computer science, mathematics, biology, chemistry and health sciences. In order to apply, students must have a declared major in those fields, be an Ohio resident and have a math placement score that allows them to start directly in their major.

Emilie Brown, the coordinator for STEM Outreach and Scholarships, said the Choose Ohio First program has different tracks for students.

“Our first two we call the research track, and students that are accepted into one of those programs, are required to do a research project every year with a faculty member or a member of the community that is an expert in the field,” Brown said. “[Then there] is our work-based learning track. [For] students in that program, we are expecting them to do at least one transcribed corporate internship throughout their time at YSU — and they can also do the research — but we’re not coordinating that for them.”

With the newly-awarded money, Brown said the program can support more undergraduate STEM students and create a graduate assistant track for the next fall semester. 

“We wanted to extend what we’ve been doing more into the graduate level work, which wasn’t previously an option with Choose Ohio First. We kind of modeled what we were doing with the undergraduates, ” Brown said. “We’re looking to add about 10 graduate students to the program starting in [the] fall, plus our current programs will each take in an additional cohort of students.”

Each year, the Ohio Department of Higher Education calls for grant proposals from Ohio colleges and universities for the Choose Ohio First program. 

Thomas Wakefield, an endowed professor of actuarial science and department chair of mathematics and statistics at YSU, stated he applied for the grant and was pleased with the amount awarded. 

“The maximum we could request was $1.2 million. We requested $1.1 million,” Wakefield stated. “I was pleasantly surprised that we received that large an amount given the number of schools and the requests for proposals that were submitted.”

Wakefield stated that Ohio sets parameters for the program, but universities have some flexibility.

“Each institution has flexibility in deciding how much funding to request, how to administer and design the program to best serve students, and how to choose students to participate,” Wakefield stated.

Nathanael Warren, a senior chemical engineering major, said he’s been in the Choose Ohio First program for five years and has worked on various research projects with YSU faculty, including research on fiberglass bulletproof vests and National Football League helmets.

“For my side of the Choose Ohio First program, we work with professors to do research that most students wouldn’t have the chance to do,” Warren said. “You get to work closely with professors … If you’re a hard worker, you can get other research opportunities — it could be paid research. You also get a chance to share your work with employers. It helped me get a job.”

For more information about the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program at YSU, go to its website.