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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Schnecksville, Pa., Sept. 29, 2023 – Lehigh Carbon Community College has received a three-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of Hispanic students pursuing a major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The grant will support a first-year experience course for Hispanic students to attract them to STEM majors. In addition, the project will address improving students’ sense of belonging to a career where Hispanic/Latino graduates are not well represented.

The grant project will be led by Dr. Deepika Khilnaney, associate professor of physics at LCCC.

Hispanic enrollment at colleges and universities nationwide has increased by 34% over the past few years. More Hispanics are entering the workforce, yet the industries fueling the future of innovation are lagging behind. In fact, just 8% of the STEM workforce identify as Hispanic.

LCCC has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with a student body comprised of more than 28% Hispanic or Latino students. The college developed the Aspira First-Year Experience initiative to support Hispanic students with their transition to college, understanding that developing a sense of belonging has a dramatic impact on students’ academic performance. With this NSF funding, the existing Aspira program will be adapted to a pilot program specific to STEM-interested Hispanic students.

This course will incorporate topics integral to Hispanic student success, including motivation, self-management, goal setting, critical thinking, test taking and career exploration. Students will learn about STEM fields and hear from Hispanic leaders from local companies about the STEM industry. Scholarships, peer mentoring and faculty professional development will also break down barriers to affordability, help students navigate the college experience, develop connections with other students and increase inclusive teaching practices.

It is expected that between 30 and 40 STEM-interested Hispanic students will enroll in the Aspira STEM track.

For information on the grant project, which runs from Oct. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2026, contact Dr. Khilnaney at, or Natalie DeRosa, Director of Student Engagement and Inclusion, at