Mentor-Connect leaders welcomed faculty-led teams from 23 two-year colleges when they launched support of a ninth cohort of mentee colleges during a virtual meeting on December 2. Mentor-Connect is a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education project led by Florence-Darlington Technical College in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.
“I applaud your decision to be here, and to embark on the journey that can lead to NSF ATE funding,” Mentor-Connect Principal Investigator Elaine Craft said. Two-year college faculty teams must submit applications to Mentor-Connect, which requires that college teams agree to work with a mentor for nine months before submitting an ATE grant proposal in October.
Mentor-Connect uses a regenerative cycle for building leadership capacity among STEM faculty at two-year colleges.
As Ellen Hause, program director for Academic and Student Affairs at AACC, explained to the new mentees, “What we will teach you is not just for your first NSF ATE grant. We want to inspire, energize, and prepare you for a long relationship with the NSF ATE program and for subsequent grant awards. What you learn over the next year is transferrable to other NSF funding opportunities. And you will also learn how to design good projects that can lead to funding from other sources.”
In addition to its work with faculty who are new to the ATE program, Mentor-Connect also offers the Mentor Fellows program to cultivate the mentoring and leadership skills of ATE principal investigators. The mentors for Cohort 9 include six community college educators who were Mentor Fellows; three of whom began their involvement in the ATE program as Mentor-Connect mentees.
Since Mentor-Connect began in 2012 it has made significant progress toward its goal of broadening geographic and demographic participation in the ATE program. The Cohort 9 colleges are from 13 states; none of the colleges have had ATE grants in the past seven years.
Eighty-five of the 142 colleges in Mentor-Connect’s first seven cohorts have received New-to-ATE grants for a 74% funding rate. There were 22 colleges in Cohort 8; 18 submitted ATE proposals to NSF in October 2020.