In First for Community Colleges, Saddleback to Lead $9.9 Million National Science Foundation Effort to Expand Diversity in STEM Workforce

For Immediate Release: 
September 17, 2018

Thanks to a $9.9 million collaborative research award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Saddleback College will be a leader in the effort to educate and train a more diverse science and engineering workforce.  As the first community college in the nation to lead an NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) Alliance, the college will assist the scientific community in its effort to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and career pathways more widely inclusive of minority groups. 

The award includes $8.8 million to Saddleback College and $1.1 million to collaborative research partner University of Colorado, Boulder.  Other major partners include non-profit workforce intermediary Growth Sector, Community College of Baltimore County, and San Jose Evergreen Community College District. 

Dr. James Buysse, Interim President of Saddleback College, said, “It is a great honor to assist the National Science Foundation in its endeavor to promote diversity in science.  Saddleback has an excellent record of training students for careers in STEM, due in large part to our dedicated faculty.  This award will enable us to advance our efforts to make a career in the STEM field a reality for a greater number of students.”

Recent studies show that if the United States is to maintain its status as a global leader in science, the nation must address the need to broaden participation in STEM within a single generation. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, 53 percent of the population will be comprised of minorities; yet only 30 percent of those currently working in science and engineering are minorities. 

To address this issue, Saddleback College will prepare remedial students for advanced STEM education and careers by continuing its STEM Core Initiative, which it developed in 2016 with an NSF INCLUDES design and development launch pilot award.  The STEM Core creates a path to employment for students by helping them achieve calculus readiness through contextualized and accelerated mathematics; providing a dedicated student support specialist to provide psychosocial support and services to reduce academic and non-academic barriers; and connecting them with paid internships in STEM industries.

Following its implementation by Saddleback College, the STEM Core has been adopted by more than 16 community and technical colleges across the United States and has served more than 839 remedial math students, with many becoming STEM majors and securing internships in high-tech enterprises. The new $9.9 million NSF award will enable the STEM Core Model to expand to 30 community and technical colleges and will provide funds for students to participate in internships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and national laboratories including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Tram Vo-Kumamoto, Vice President for Instruction at Saddleback College, said of the award, “Saddleback College is proud and honored to take on the role of leading the STEM Core Alliance.  We believe that the comprehensive model of instruction and student support we have used will continue to enhance access and completion for first generation and under-represented STEM students throughout the alliance.  As a result, our STEM Core Alliance students will prove to be active and engaged contributors to our nation’s future as leaders in science and technology innovations.”

Dr.  James Zoval, a Saddleback College chemistry instructor and the principal investigator of the award, said, “Not only does this award have the ability to transform the nation’s science and engineering workforce, but it has the ability to transform the lives of our students and participants across the country.  This is what community colleges are about: social mobility.  We are seeing that happen first-hand while also contributing to a greater good.”

The $9.9 million in funding was made possible by the National Science Foundation under award numbers HRD-1834628 and HRD-1834608.

Celebrating 50 years of service to our community, Saddleback College in Mission Viejo provides quality higher education and training to students in south Orange County.  Having served more than 500,000 students since 1968, Saddleback College offers more than 300 degree and certificate programs to help students reach their personal, career, and educational goals.  For more information, please visit


Published September 17, 2018