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  1. Natural disasters, such as 2017 hurricanes Irma and María, the 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, affect students in many aspects including economic, socio-emotional, and academic performance progress. To ensure that students can cope with the aftermath of such searing events, it is necessary to develop initiatives that address these three aspects. Satisfying the financial need is essential, but a long-term solution is mandatory. Hence, providing socio-emotional and academic support and cultivating a sense of purpose are critical to prevent attrition. To secure continued STEM success among students affected by natural disasters, the National Science Foundation has funded several projects at the University of Puerto Rico, a Hispanic Serving Institution. This manuscript presents four NSF-funded projects sharing the common goal of providing support to STEM students to ensure that they succeed despite the said challenges. The first project, titled Nanotechnology Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Sustainability Application, leans heavily on research teams dedicated to design new Nanotechnology platforms to address biomedical and environmental challenges and simultaneously trains a new generation of nanoengineers and nanoscientists throughout the educational echelon starting from public intermediate schools through doctoral programs. The second project, entitled Ecosystem to Expand Capabilities and Opportunitiesmore »for STEM-Scholars (EECOS), developed an integrated framework that provides support to 62 low-income, talented, STEM students who were severely affected by Hurricane María and 2019-2020 earthquakes (58 undergraduate and 4 graduate). The project provided participants with financial, academic, socio-emotional, and career motivation support needed to complete their programs. The third project, Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS) addresses college access and economic hardships of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS). It aims at increasing the retention and academic success of talented engineering students coming from economically disadvantaged families. The fourth project, Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP), has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum to educate cadres of Hispanic students on infrastructure resilience to temper and to overcome the effects of such natural disasters. Three campuses of this institution system collaborate in this interdisciplinary undertaking. Participating students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, architecture, and surveying who take the entailed courses together and participate in co-curricular activities (both online and in-person through site visits). The new curricular endeavor prepares them to design infrastructure that can withstand the impact of natural events. The expect outcome is to form cohorts of graduates ready to take on real-life infrastructure failures caused by disasters and provide them with an edge in their future professions. The present work provides a range of scalable and portable strategies that universities with underrepresented minorities in STEM programs could deploy to address the immediate and continued needs of students affected by natural disasters to secure academic success. These strategies can contribute to the development of professionals with the skills and experience to deal with severe circumstances such as those effected by natural disasters as well as the preparation to solve infrastructure challenges.« less
  2. Natural disasters, such as 2017 hurricanes Irma and María, the 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, affect students in many aspects including economic, socio-emotional, and academic performance progress. To ensure that students can cope with the aftermath of such searing events, it is necessary to develop initiatives that address these three aspects. Satisfying the financial need is essential, but a long-term solution is mandatory. Hence, providing socio-emotional and academic support and cultivating a sense of purpose are critical to prevent attrition. To secure continued STEM success among students affected by natural disasters, the National Science Foundation has funded several projects at the University of Puerto Rico, a Hispanic Serving Institution. This manuscript presents four NSF-funded projects sharing the common goal of providing support to STEM students to ensure that they succeed despite the said challenges. The first project, titled Nanotechnology Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Sustainability Application, leans heavily on research teams dedicated to design new Nanotechnology platforms to address biomedical and environmental challenges and simultaneously trains a new generation of nanoengineers and nanoscientists throughout the educational echelon starting from public intermediate schools through doctoral programs. The second project, entitled Ecosystem to Expand Capabilities and Opportunitiesmore »for STEM-Scholars (EECOS), developed an integrated framework that provides support to 62 low-income, talented, STEM students who were severely affected by Hurricane María and 2019-2020 earthquakes (58 undergraduate and 4 graduate). The project provided participants with financial, academic, socio-emotional, and career motivation support needed to complete their programs. The third project, Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS) addresses college access and economic hardships of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS). It aims at increasing the retention and academic success of talented engineering students coming from economically disadvantaged families. The fourth project, Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP), has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum to educate cadres of Hispanic students on infrastructure resilience to temper and to overcome the effects of such natural disasters. Three campuses of this institution system collaborate in this interdisciplinary undertaking. Participating students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, architecture, and surveying who take the entailed courses together and participate in co-curricular activities (both online and in-person through site visits). The new curricular endeavor prepares them to design infrastructure that can withstand the impact of natural events. The expect outcome is to form cohorts of graduates ready to take on real-life infrastructure failures caused by disasters and provide them with an edge in their future professions. The present work provides a range of scalable and portable strategies that universities with underrepresented minorities in STEM programs could deploy to address the immediate and continued needs of students affected by natural disasters to secure academic success. These strategies can contribute to the development of professionals with the skills and experience to deal with severe circumstances such as those effected by natural disasters as well as the preparation to solve infrastructure challenges.« less