September 12, 2016

SIU selects inaugural group of ‘Energy Scholars’

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale has selected the inaugural group of students who will benefit from a grant aimed at helping transfer students prepare for careers in the energy sector.  

The National Science Foundation awarded the $1 million grant from its Division of Undergraduate Education to SIU earlier this year. The Southern Illinois Energy Scholarship is on average worth about $7,000 a year for two years and is designed to recruit, retain and graduate primarily community college transfer students interested in an energy-related career. 

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The grant, which also serves as a research project in the area of STEM education, is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary effort that involves several academic departments on campus. STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” which is receiving a major push by education leaders throughout the country. 

The students receiving the first round of scholarships, their areas of study, hometown and college they are transferring from where applicable and available are: 

Joshua Friedrich, mechanical engineering and energy processes, Southeast Missouri State University

Tanna Gillespie, architectural studies, Lawrenceville, Vincennes University

M. Sophie Hall, mechanical engineering and energy processes

Kyle Kieffer, electrical and computer engineering, Mount Carmel, Wabash Community College

Aviance Mckinzie, mechanical engineering and energy processes, Naperville, Howard University

Emily Peterson, civil and environmental engineering, The Woodlands, Texas

Courtney Rudloff, architectural studies, Benton, Rend Lake College

Malika Asford-Smith, electrical and computer engineering

Michelle Smithenry, mechanical engineering and energy processes, Newton, Lake Land College

Joseph Stark, civil and environmental engineering, Anna, Shawnee Community College 

Fran Harackiewicz, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the primary investigator on the project. Karen Renzaglia, professor of plant biology and distinguished scholar, and Lizette Chevalier, associate dean of the College of Engineering, are co-primary investigators, and will help manage the project.  

“This program is so important to SIU Carbondale and to these students in particular,” Harackiewicz said. “Energy jobs are expected to increase in the state, and many people on campus and locally are leading energy research and projects.” 

Harackiewicz said the program leaders identified the students as having both the passion and background to engage professionally within their major, with a focus on energy issues.  

“SIU is gaining the concentration of these scholars on important issues of energy sustainability,” Harackiewicz said. “These scholars are learning to contribute, now and in their future careers or studies, to the energy workforce.” 

Renzaglia said the prestigious scholarships will enhance the students’ competitiveness for high-skilled, high-paying technical positions in the energy sector. 

“Energy is big business in Illinois and across the country,” Renzaglia said. “Our Energy Scholars will contribute new approaches to developing efficient and sustainable energy sources and technology, areas that are critical in maintaining the U.S. as a leader in the global economy.” 

SIU has a long history of educating tomorrow’s energy sector leaders. In addition to this latest scholarship opportunity, the university also is home to the Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center, which awards scholarships and provides a regional resource to help meet the challenges the energy industry will face in the future. 

The majority of the grant will be available as scholarship money to qualified students, with transfer students from community colleges as the program’s main target. Officials will base the amount of each scholarship on financial need. 

Programs eligible for the scholarship include: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, mining engineering, electrical engineering technology, physics, chemistry, plant biology, geology, geography and architectural studies, among others. Eligibility requirements include U.S. citizenship and financial need, and have a minimum 3.0 grade point average at the time of application.