CSM STEM Scholarships Opening Doors

College of Southern Maryland STEM Scholars Alexandra Palchak

Award Led to Interview at the White House

            Just a few months after becoming a College of Southern Maryland STEM Scholar, Alexandra Palchak, of California, got a call from the White House. A stay-at-home mom for the past seven years, Palchak had little work experience to add to the federal government internship application, but she did have her recent scholarship award. “The interviewer mentioned the STEM scholarship and I knew right then and there it was one of the deciding factors which made them consider me for an interview.” Palchak wasn’t selected for the internship with the Office of the Chief Information Officer of the Administration Executive Office of the President, however, “being selected for an interview was definitely a huge honor and a huge achievement for me.”     

            With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), CSM is offering scholarships to current CSM students and incoming freshmen pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees. Scholarship recipients receive awards up to $5,000 per academic year over two academic years for tuition, fees and books. In addition, students in the program will receive mentorship by field-related specialists and potential summer employment opportunities in their field of study.

            “Saying that the STEM scholarship means a lot to me is definitely an understatement—it has not only opened a door but an entire gateway for more possibilities in my newly chosen career. Though my passion for computers and technology undoubtedly dates back to high school, I never really had the chance to develop this interest until I decided to go back to school and pursue a degree in computer science and IT [information technology],” said Palchak.  “One of the best parts of the scholarship was to be a part of a group of talented students who share my same passion in computers and technology, meet new friends and meet the ever-supportive faculty advisors who made sure that we got all the help we needed in order to succeed in our field of study,” Palchak said of the individual advising, tutorial support and other academic resources available to STEM Scholars. 

            Palchak graduated with highest honors from CSM on May 10 and is transferring to University of Maryland University College to major in information systems management with a minor in computing. During CSM’s Honors Convocation ceremony on May 9, she received the Outstanding Information Services Technology Student Award.

            Two years ago, Palchak decided to return to school after an 11-year break. “I thought the only way I could finish college was through college loans,” she said, adding that her young family was just starting to build up some money in their savings account and didn’t want to have a lot of college debt. Through a Pell Grant, the Maryland Educational Assistance Grant and the STEM Scholarship, Palchak has been able to afford tuition at CSM while building a tuition savings fund for UMUC.

            The CSM STEM Scholars Program provides scholarships, support services to increase retention and assistance to graduates in transitioning to further education or employment. Electronics technology, environmental technology, information services technology, biotechnology, mathematics/physical sciences, computer science and engineering are among the programs targeted by this grant.

            “Built into the program are monthly activities where we bring in presenters from CSM and the professional community to speak on a variety of topics that will benefit students in their future academic and professional careers,” said CSM Mathematics Professor Sandy Poinsett, who is joined by CSM faculty Dr. Melanie Osterhouse, Sue Strickland  and Turner Coggins as program administrators. The program is funded through 2015.

            Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled. For information on STEM Scholarships, visit www.csmd.edu/STEM/