August 27, 2012 – To help the United States remain a world leader in science and technology and increase the number and diversity of students entering community colleges and four year colleges, the Office of Naval Research has awarded the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) a grant of $666,000 to launch an intensive summer STEM program. The program, called Critical MASS, will offer CPS students in the Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps (JROTC) science, math and leadership classes, the chance to earn college credit, and trips to world-class scientific facilities in the Chicago region. (MASS stands for Midwest Association for Science and Service.)
Developed in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), the Navy Diversity Directorate and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Critical MASS aims to strengthen the country’s science and engineering workforce and military by guiding JROTC students in the exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as educational and career options.
JROTC students at CPS’ Rickover Naval Academy, with (back row, from left to right): Todd Connor, executive director of CPS service leadership programs; Michael Davis, associate vice chancellor of STEM at City Colleges of Chicago; CDR Michael Tooker, USN (Ret), Commandant of Rickover Naval Academy; and Michael Biela, Academy Superintendent of Rickover Naval Academy. The student at far left is wearing an early 19th-century uniform to mark the War of 1812 bicentennial during Navy Week Chicago, held from August 15-20.
CCC faculty members will take the lead role in conceiving and teaching Critical MASS’ six-week sessions, which will be held at CCC campuses. IIT faculty will assist CCC faculty in developing curricula grounded in inquiry-based methods, which emphasize active learning and analytical skills.
Critical MASS will begin in summer 2013 with a cohort of 60 rising sophomores selected from across the city. Students from minority groups underrepresented in STEM fields will be targeted and recruited for the program.
“By giving students early exposure to college, especially STEM courses, we are increasing their likelihood of persistence beyond high school and are giving them the foundation to be successful in a wide range of fast-growing fields,” said Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. “Having earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science myself, I fully understand the value of a STEM education and have committed City Colleges to ongoing support of programs like Critical MASS which inspire a life-long passion for math and science.”
"The U.S. Navy is pleased to support the creation of Critical MASS," said Dr. Anthony V. Junior, Program Manager for Navy STEM education programs at the Office of Naval Research. "Programs like these are essential to the United States Navy increasing the quantity and quality STEM professionals who will contribute to the Navy's technical workforce requirements."
“Developing the next generation of scientists, engineers and technology field leaders is absolutely in our strategic national interest,” said Rear Admiral Gregory M. Nosal, Commander of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group Two. “I cannot think of a better way to invest in the future of our country than through exposing students, in particular minority students who are underrepresented in the STEM fields, to the range of exciting career possibilities."
To be eligible for Critical MASS, students must have at least a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled in a CPS school and a JROTC program, and be nominated by a teacher. A new class of Critical MASS recruits will be added in 2014 and 2015; by the third year of the program, there will be three cohorts running concurrently: rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Summer sessions will be six weeks long, and students will meet three times each week for science, math, and leadership and physical training classes. To connect summer learning to regular academic year coursework, participants will meet regularly during the school year and go on field trips to science institutions including the Argonne National Lab and Fermi Lab.
Third-year Critical MASS students will be able to earn college credit that can be transferred to CCC, IIT or other four-year institutions. Once in college, they will be encouraged to enter the Department of Defense’s Student Intern Programs at NSWC Crane Division; Critical MASS will support two students in intern positions.
“By sparking interest in science and technology, Critical MASS will help more of our students enter the fields that are high-demand, well-paying, and under-represented amongst minority populations,” said Todd Connor, executive director of CPS’ military programs. “We’re thrilled that our approximately 11,000 cadets will have the chance to be part of this intensive summer STEM education to help prepare them for college and subsequent careers.” CPS’ JROTC program is the largest in the nation, represented in 44 CPS high schools.
The program will be jointly staffed, resourced, and managed by faculty and staff of CCC, IIT, CPS, the Navy Diversity Directorate and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, located in Crane, Ind. Professional development for CCC faculty and CPS teachers through internships at NSWC Crane Division and at their schools will enable them to build relevant summer experiences for students that relate to Navy research and the needs of Naval scientists and engineers. CCC and IIT students will support faculty working with CPS students while serving as teaching assistants. Beloved Community Family Services Inc. will partner with CPS, CCC and IIT to provide community outreach.
By helping students become college-ready, the Critical MASS program will build upon CCC’s existing partnerships with CPS. Those partnerships include: dual enrollment, which allows Chicago high-school students to enroll in CCC courses; dual credit, which allows CPS students to simultaneously earn high-school and college credit through courses at their school; and Level UP, a free summer program that prepares incoming CCC students for college-level coursework.