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Grant will improve science opportunities for students

ISSUED: 26 March 2024
MEDIA CONTACT: Cecelia Mason

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University has joined First2 Network’s initiative to increase the number of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in West Virginia and beyond.

First2 Network is one of 17 National Science Foundation INCLUDES initiative alliances across the country that focuses on rural, first-generation, low-income, and other underrepresented STEM students to make sure all students can succeed. The five collaborating institutions for this network in West Virginia are the Green Bank Observatory; High Rocks Educational Corporation; the Higher Education Policy Commission Science, Technology and Research (STaR) division; Fairmont State University; and West Virginia University.


Group photo of representatives from Shepherd and High Rocks Educational Corporation in front of Snyder Science Hall.Pictured (front row, l. to r.) are Samantha Mitchell, First2 student coordinator; Brigid Brown, First2 improvement science and data manager; Anika Wirt, Shepherd student director and environmental science major; Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, associate professor of chemistry and co-chair, Department of Natural and Physical Sciences; Dr. Haley Albright, assistant professor of chemistry; and Jacob Doyle, Shepherd student director and biochemistry major. Back row, Erica Harvey, First2 institutional team coordinator; Dr. Robert Warburton, dean, College of Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Nursing; and Dr. Sytil Murphy, associate professor of physics and co-chair, Department of Natural and Physical Sciences. 


Dr. Sytil Murphy, associate professor of physics and co-chair of the Department of Natural and Physical Sciences; Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, associate professor of chemistry and co-chair of the Department of Natural and Physical Sciences; and Dr. Haley Albright, assistant professor of chemistry, received a $20,000 grant to implement the program at Shepherd.

“I’m excited that Shepherd has joined because of the many potential benefits to our students,” Murphy said.

“This will be an excellent way to build a community of STEM students and help to retain them from start to graduation,” added Cole.

Students are involved in organizing the effort and are starting a campus club, Shepherd First2. Student directors for the club are Anika Wirt, an environmental science major, and Jacob Doyle, a biochemistry major, both from Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The club will cater to undergraduate students in the sciences with a goal of building a community that fosters a sense of belonging. The club is planning events such as a finals prep party to celebrate the end of the semester and help students prepare for their final exams.

“First2 aims to create a stronger sense of community for our students and the ability for them to more easily engage with their peers in STEM, ultimately leading to their long-term success,” Albright said. “This student group will complement programming we already have on campus and provide new and exciting opportunities for Shepherd students.”

Other program goals are to support the transition of students after graduation through the Career Pathways Series (CaPS), create opportunities to influence the next generation of STEM students through outreach activities such as the Seeding Your Future program for middle and high school students, and providing needed academic supplies.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome Shepherd University and its students into the First2 Network,” said Samantha Mitchell, First2 student coordinator, High Rocks Educational Corporation. “Their dedication to supporting students aligns perfectly with our mission of ensuring every student has the opportunity to succeed. I can’t wait to work alongside Shepherd students, empowering them to pursue their passions and together, drive innovation, and make a lasting impact in our communities.”

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