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Diversity is a crucial element in advancing STEM innovation, and an array of initiatives have been cultivated to ensure students from underrepresented groups can chart paths in the space. Amongst the projects is the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative, which hit a multi-million dollar fundraising milestone to provide scholarships for HBCU students.

Founded in 2020, FOSSI is a collaborative project led by the American Chemistry Council, the HBCU Week Foundation and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Chemours Company. Research shows that 18 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students are awarded from HBCUs. In an effort to diversify the industry, FOSSI was created to eradicate financial barriers to entry by covering tuition expenses for scholars at historically Black colleges and universities. Beyond providing grants for students, FOSSI aligns program participants with mentorship and internship opportunities at the nation’s leading engineering companies.

Within its first year, FOSSI distributed 151 student grants. This fall, 144 scholarships will be awarded. FOSSI has amassed over $17 million to create $40,000 grants for over 350 students. Its mission is to fund 1,000 scholarships through 2025.

“With an ambitious goal of funding 1,000 HBCU students, FOSSI aims to have a significant and meaningful impact on the future workforce,” shared FOSSI Chairman Mark Vergnano. “These talented scholarship recipients bring new and diverse perspectives to help innovate the solutions that will address global challenges like clean energy and climate change.” The program will start accepting applications for the next round of scholarships on September 23.

News about FOSSI’s scholarship project comes after businessman and philanthropist Robert F. Smith gifted his alma mater, Cornell University’s College of Engineering, with a $15 million donation. The endowment will fund initiatives that are purposefully designed to provide financial assistance for HBCU graduates interested in furthering their education at Cornell through master’s and doctorate programs. It will also support diverse undergraduate students in need.


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