Cal State LA awarded $5.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education

Students in science lab.


The First in the World grants will fund programs to boost college access, student success in STEM fields

Cal State LA was awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $5.8 million to promote success in STEM education. The First in the World grant program is part of the Obama Administration’s agenda to spur innovation and ensure a college education is accessible to all Americans.

The College of Natural and Social Sciences received $2.8 million, for a period of four years, to establish a multi-institutional, regional STEM Education Consortium. The consortium will include Pasadena City College and West Los Angeles College.

The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology will collaborate with San Jose State University and Cal Poly Pomona as part of a $3 million grant to increase the number of degrees earned by underrepresented minority students in STEM fields. The grant covers a four-year period.

“We all know that innovation can take many forms and as a key part of the Administration’s goal to promote college access and affordability, the First in the World program aims to support a wide range of innovation to improve student outcomes,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We are pleased to support these educational leaders who are driving exciting innovations to achieve those goals.”

Cal State LA has earned a national reputation for graduating students who go on to earn Ph.D.’s and help diversify the STEM professions.

“These grants will assist the University in continuing our role as a leader in educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” President William A. Covino said. “The grants acknowledge the innovative excellence of our faculty members and their dedication to our students.”

At Cal State LA, Chemistry Professor James Rudd will direct the STEM Education Consortium project. The initiative will target the high-need student populations, particularly underrepresented minorities, served by the three educational institutions.

Students in lab.“The STEM Education Consortium is an exciting and innovative collaboration between teaching-intensive universities and colleges in the Los Angeles region to help more students participate in the increasing number of STEM career opportunities,” said Rudd, who is the principal investigator of the grant. “Consortium institutions will share with each other their educational expertise, resources, and capacity in order to strengthen the curriculum, assessment, and advisement in STEM degree pathways.”

Cal State LA’s collaboration with San Jose State and Cal Poly Pomona is called “Promoting Active Learning Strategies through the Flipped Classroom Model in STEM Gateway Courses.” The project will build student-centered solutions into gateway STEM courses, including pre-calculus, calculus and physics, as well as several fundamental engineering and computer science courses.

The Cal State LA courses will be overseen by Associate Dean Jane Dong, of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology, and Associate Dean Nancy McQueen, of the College of Natural and Social Sciences.

“We are really excited to have this opportunity to work with the other two sister campuses on this educational initiative,” said Dong, who is one of the grant’s principal investigators. “Through our collaboration, we hope to develop a new layer of support to help our freshmen and sophomore STEM students strengthen their academic skills.”

Cal State LA is one of 17 institutions selected for the First in the World grants. More than 300 institutions applied to the Department of Education, which based its awards on key factors such as improving teaching and learning, and enhancing success in developmental education.

Photos: Cal State LA students conducting STEM-focused research. (Credit: Cal State LA)

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 240,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit