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MCLA Receives $20,000 from Berkshire Bank Foundation for Summer STEM Academy

NORTH ADAMS — The Berkshire Bank Foundation awarded Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) $20,000 to fund the Berkshire Bank STEM Academy, which accepts up to 20 incoming first-year students enrolled in a STEM major or who have expressed interest in STEM fields.

Designed to introduce incoming students to careers in STEM, the residential, five-day academy includes opportunities to network with STEM faculty, students, and staff in the interest of developing a deeper relationship with those involved in STEM careers in the Berkshires. The program’s ultimate goal is to encourage more students to secure jobs in the Berkshires and remain here after graduation.

This summer will mark the ninth year of the Berkshire Bank STEM Academy. Alumni of the program, which was developed to serve low-income and first-generation college students, have gone on to be leaders at MCLA as residential advisors, tutors, and supplemental instructors. Graduates have gone on to have careers at Raytheon, General Dynamics, Edge Pharma, and as public-school teachers.

Students are selected based on their responses to surveys taken upon their acceptance to the college. Interested students should e-mail program director Dr. Sara Steele, assistant professor of Psychology, at [email protected] to have their name prioritized in the selection process.

During the residential program, where the majority of the awarded funds are spent, students will explore concepts in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, environmental science, psychology, and physics through laboratory work and meeting with faculty. Students will also be paired with an upper-level STEM major who will serve as a mentor. Field trips to local STEM employers, including Berkshire Health Systems, MASS MoCA, and General Dynamics, as well as a roundtable discussion and a dinner with STEM professionals will encourage students to begin thinking about internships and local career opportunities.

Other programming throughout the year will include career exploration, introduction to academic services and resources on campus, and presentations on study skills, time management, course advising, and financial planning. Sessions on preparing and understanding FAFSA applications, student loans, and personal financial responsibility will be conducted by the MCLA Office of Student Financial Services, with individual appointments for all participating students. Berkshire Bank STEM Academy students will be expected to attend special events during the year, such as visiting speakers, planned programs, and MCLA’s annual Undergraduate Research Conference.

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