Keeping Ohio skillset in Ohio

STEM Students participate in Choose Ohio First Program in spring 2018.

By Jessica Stamp

Many scholarships are offered to Youngstown State University STEM students, but the Choose Ohio First scholarship is targeted toward increasing net enrollment and graduation for these students. 

Emilie Brown, coordinator of outreach and scholarships for STEM majors, expresses how important it is for students to get involved in STEM, to keep them in the program until they graduate and then ultimately stay in Ohio. 

“By 2025, it’s estimated that there will be about 3.5 million openings in STEM related jobs and only 1.5 million people qualified for those positions,” Brown said. “That’s a 2 million person shortage in our workforce in just a couple of years.” 

In Brown’s opinion, it is important to get more students involved in the STEM areas and support them due to a significant shortage across the country along with trying to continue the country’s advancements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It is urgent and extremely important that we get more students into STEM areas, that we support them through the process and make sure that they graduate job or graduate school ready so that they can be ready to take those positions,” she said. 

According to Brown, YSU’s graduation rate for STEM students in the program over the years is between 80-90%.

The Choose Ohio First program is for Ohio residents only because it looks to keep talent in the state. It targets students in the school areas of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties to recruit into the program. 

The program contains monthly meetings which involve student and faculty members talking about different topics, guest speakers, professional development and presenting a research project, which is a major component in the program. 

Brown spreads the word about the program by visiting local high schools in the tri-county area. 

“We work on those local schools in reaching out to the counselors and the teachers and the principals at those schools to help us identify students at their schools that would be a good fit for the program,” Brown said. “Also working with them to set up meetings and actually talk to students about the program.” 

Thomas Wakefield, a department of mathematics and statistics professor, was a research team mentor for a couple of years and believes the program helps students prepare skills for beyond YSU and encourages them to pursue internships.

“When they are a part of the program, they work on a research team, and they complete a research project,” Wakefield said. “The combination of the research experience, the valuable skill of working in teams, conducting research and solving a problem, which is valuable for employers.”

Wakefield said the program is an opportunity for students to pursue and promote the STEM disciplines while also hoping for students to stay in Ohio after graduating. 

With STEM’s reputation as a difficult field, the Choose Ohio First program also offers a Summer Bridge program. It involves a free four-week summer program for high school students that helps build their math skills in algebra II to prepare for precalculus, calculus and college placement tests. It also assists students in getting ready for the ACT by concentrating on the basic fundamentals of math. 

Students who participate in the Summer Bridge program and are eligible for the scholarship can get first priority.