NSF Student Understanding and Realizing Potential for Attaining Scientific Success Scholarship (SURPASS) Program

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has partnered with Mills College to improve educational opportunities for students by creating a first-year experience through employment or graduate school transition program to support STEM students from low income families. A special focus of the program is on developing leadership skills and tools for students in STEM, thus addressing a gap in the STEM workforce.

Mills College will advance the goals of the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) by:

  • Attracting women of low-income to STEM disciplines
  • Increasing retention of low-income pursuing STEM majors
  • Improving support services for low-income women pursuing STEM careers
  • Producing future women leaders within the STEM field

The NSF SURPASS Scholars at Mills receive substantial financial support of up to $38,000 over four years, as well as other support mechanisms which have included the Hellman Summer Science and Math summer bridge program, targeted faculty advising, themed housing community, and specially designed workshops focused on academic and leadership development. To enhance recruiting efforts for minority women, a special Minority Women in STEM Lecture Series has also been deployed. As a result, students should complete their degree in four years and be well prepared for work or graduate study within a STEM field. 

The eligibility criteria for participation in NSF SURPASS are:

  1. Commitment to attending Mills College.
  2. Expressed strong interest in pursuing a STEM discipline degree (remain in STEM field as project participant).
  3. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2.
  4. Financial need (as determined by the Office of Financial Aid review of FAFSA form, Estimated Family Contribution, and the current cost of attendance for Mills College).
  5. Citizen, Permanent Resident of the United States (as defined in section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), aliens admitted as refugees (defined by section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act) or aliens lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.

NSF SURPASS Scholarship Program supports 14 low-income students (one cohort of six entering first year classes in 2016 and one of eight entering in 2017) who are pursuing STEM majors.

Currently, we have six students in their senior year at Mills College, and six students in their junior year. Two NSF SURPASS Scholarships are currently available to eligible juniors or seniors. Visit our NSF SURPASS Scholarship application web page for detailed information.

About the National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program

The National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program addresses the need for a high-quality STEM workforce in areas of national priorities. The program seeks to increase and understand the success of low-income, academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who are pursuing associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Recognizing that scholarships alone cannot address low retention and graduation rates in STEM, the program provides funds to institutions of higher education for scholarships and for establishing systems of high-quality, evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities that support student success, retention, transfer, and graduation in STEM.
–National Science Foundation

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1565160. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


For specific NSF SURPASS Scholar information or questions, please contact:

Helen Walter, PhD
Principle Investigator

Visit the NSF website to view details about the grant, award, and co-investigators.