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UVI Awarded $500K National Science Foundation Grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of $499,692 to the University of the Virgin Islands in support of a project to assess the impact of creative problem solving skills training on STEM retention. STEM refers to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics academic disciplines.

The project entitled, "Education Research Grant: The Use of Creative Problem Solving as Curriculum Enhancement to Improve Cognitive, Behavioral, and Social Transformation in STEM Retention," became effective Sept. 1, 2010 and expires Aug. 31, 2013.

The UVI project team includes principal investigator Dr. Kimarie Engerman of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and co-principal investigators Dr. Donald Drost and Dr. Konstantinos Alexandridis, both of the UVI College of Science and Mathematics."It's a team effort," Dr. Engerman said.

Creative problem solving, as a teacher training discipline, is seen as a way of potentially improving the retention rate of students who pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees. Creative problem solving is already being utilized in UVI's Science 100 classes, Dr. Engerman said. "We're hoping that it will ignite an interest in STEM."

Creative problem solving taps into the beliefs, attitudes and aspirations of students while maximizing peer academic support. The NSF grant will support the assessment of many aspects of STEM students' academic challenges, including what assistance exists for those who must complete projects. It also studies behavioral influences that can either work in favor of or against a student's decision to major in science, technology, education or mathematics.

"By giving them the ability to think about things in a different way, students find out that science isn't difficult - it's fun," Dr. Engerman said. She is particularly interested in the motivations of STEM students in the Caribbean, which is a unique population for NSF research. "The NSF is looking for innovation," she said. "Our population is unique in that the Caribbean is hardly ever studied."

For details about the University's creative problem solving NSF grant project, please contact Dr. Kimarie Engerman at 340-693-1277.