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Mastering a New Level of Success

Swanson School of Engineering Receives $1 Million NSF Award to Fund Master’s Degrees for 30 Low-Income Students

PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2019) ... Earning a graduate degree can be a worthwhile investment in a career. People with a master’s degree make, on average, $17,000 more per year than those with only an undergraduate degree. But the cost of earning an advanced degree can be prohibitive for some, making graduate school financially unattainable. There is currently little, or no financial support or scholarships offered for terminal MS degrees, where the norm is a focus on providing full support for PhD studies and no funding stream for prospective MS degree students.

To help overcome that barrier, a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation will provide 30 high-achieving, low-income students who demonstrate financial need with two-year scholarships to pursue Master of Science (MS) degrees at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Dr. Sylvanus Wosu (right) with Sussan Olaore, the Pitt STRIVE program coordinator.
The scholarships will encompass all six departments: bioengineering, chemical and petroleum, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, industrial, and mechanical engineering and materials science. The program, coordinated through the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity, will also provide students with academic and co-curricular support to encourage success. Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs, explains that the program is designed to eliminate barriers that low-income students may face in transitioning to graduate school.

“Diverse backgrounds and experiences fuel innovation. Our goal is to provide more high-achieving students with the opportunity and tools to earn graduate degrees and excel in their professional careers,” says, Dr. Wosu, who will serve as principal investigator with Tagbo Niepa, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, serving as co-principal investigator. “We want to not only make graduate degrees attainable, but also build bridges to professional careers and entrepreneurial pursuits.”

Dr. Tagbo Niepa listens as Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering, comments at the Pitt STRIVE retreat.
Some of these bridges will include industry internships, faculty-structured apprenticeships, graduate-centered community engagement, and research focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The five-year program which launches this fall is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. 


Author: Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer

Contact: Paul Kovach