NSF Awards $300,000 Grant to Queensborough to Create Pathways for Students in the Advanced Technological Job Market

Published: May 07, 2021

Queensborough Community College is the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant in the amount of $300,000 entitled, Developing the Data Analysis Skills of Community College Students Using Cloud Technologies. The grant’s goal is to utilize advanced technological (AT) education to create new pathways for community college students to obtain jobs in data analysis, bioinformatics, statistics and cloud computing.

Queensborough is among the first community colleges—there are less than 20 across the nation—to utilize the data science agenda.

“This grant will make it possible to incorporate into Queensborough certain basic concepts in data analysis in various disciplines,” said Dr. Monica Trujillo, Department of Biological Sciences and Geology, and Principal Investigator of the grant.

She continued, “While advanced technology will obviously benefit students in the sciences, we also want to reach faculty in other departments to incorporate key concepts in data analysis as it will make all of our students more competitive.  It will give them that something extra when they transfer to a four-year school or go straight into the workforce.”

 “Our faculty has made it possible for Queensborough to be among the first community colleges to utilize the data science agenda. This incredible accomplishment would not have been possible without their leadership, tenacity and commitment to the success of our students,” said Queensborough Community College President, Dr. Christine Mangino.

Trujillo’s team members are: Dr. Esma Yildirim (Co-Principal Investigator), Dr. Mercedes Franco, and Dr. Yusuf Danisman, all of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department.  Christine Spicknell, Assistant Director in the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, provided significant guidance and support on the grant application. Another innovative aspect of this grant is that a Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) was created as the grant was been written. This BILT will continue to support the team during the life of the grant.

Franco realized the potential of data science some years ago at a conference where the Chair of the Mathematics Department at Macalester College spoke about a data science minor. “I was fascinated by this concept and believed it could be applied at the community college level. This would be a perfect way for students to develop knowledge and skills and connect them with real life problems.”

She started advocating for the project by taking members of faculty from various departments at Queensborough and then from other CUNY two-year and four-year schools to similar conferences.

Yildirim elaborated on the history of data analysis programs. “Initially, data analysis programs were only available in four-year colleges however technology companies’ need for qualified employees expanded.  That’s when these companies began taking a closer look at community colleges and we recognized we must amalgamate cloud computing, bioinformatics and data analysis so that our students would have the data analysis skills to enter this quickly evolving job market.”

According to Yildirim emerging technologies are in increasingly high demand and can be applied to many areas of our lives.

“For example,” said Trujillo, “We contacted Beta NYC which has a broad approach to incorporating data analysis. The organization has a training program and has expressed interest in our students as potential trainers. This is a terrific opportunity for our students to interact with other institutions in the city, including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.”

Trujillo pointed out that advanced technology is yet another crucial opportunity to make education fairer and more equitable and provide students with training opportunities that will open doors for well paid jobs and also to develop critical thinking skills.

Students will begin their training with a four-week summer boot camp. The summer training will be designed with the help of the BILT that includes members from research and medical institutions that apply data science and analysis. The subsequent year-long program will include hands-on projects, interview training skills for internships and for jobs, potentially at the BILT member’s institutions. The program will commence with a four-week boot camp to be held in summer 2022.

Trujillo expressed her gratitude to the Office of Academic Affairs, the Administration and to the Office of Sponsored Programs for their generous support of the grant process and resources. Additionally, the team is grateful to an NSF-funded program, Mentor-Connect  that provided training for the PI, co-PI and Christine Spicknel for the NSF-ATE grant application.

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