September 7, 2021

As STEM Enrollment Grows, Cheyney University Launches Life Sciences and Technology Hub

As STEM Enrollment Grows, Cheyney University Launches Life Sciences and Technology Hub

Private companies offering on-campus internships helped fuel the program’s creation

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania announced today the launching of the Life Sciences and Technology (LSAT) Hub initiative, the latest stride by the nation’s oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to attract and train science majors. Cheyney has seen the percentage of students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) increase from 13 percent in 2017-18 to 25 percent entering the fall 2021 semester.

The LSAT Hub marks the culmination of efforts to recruit private biological, chemical, and other STEM companies to the campus on the Delaware-Chester County line, with an eye toward preparing students for careers through academic programs and research experience. The program will also create a stronger STEM network in a region that is ranked sixth in the United States for life sciences and is expected to more than double the number jobs in these fields over the next decade.

The Hub, located in the school’s Science Center, will provide specific programming designed to support science students and connect them with resources and guidance to help them acclimate to scientific studies and career work. To date, eight companies have either set up shop or will establish operations on campus in the coming months—creating numerous paid, hands-on internship opportunities. Cheyney students will work directly with these companies, matching in-class instruction with invaluable real-world experience in their respective industries.

“It is important that students and their families are aware of the comprehensive support system that the Hub is designed to create for students,” said Cheyney President Aaron A. Walton. “The program will afford them the opportunity to engage more deeply with the faculty and our corporate partners, and help them prepare for and explore career options. This is exactly the vision we had in mind when we began inviting partners to locate on campus over two years ago.”

The LSAT Hub initiative also builds on a strategic alliance between Cheyney and the Wistar Institute that was established last year. Through the program, Cheyney students participate in Wistar’s biomedical research and training curriculum and gain hands-on experience through laboratory courses and internships.

Cheyney’s Science Center is equipped with state-of-the-art teaching laboratories in biology, chemistry, and computer science, as well as a faculty research laboratory. The building also includes a planetarium equipped with a 30-foot SciDome touch digital system, Windows-based automation/control and Starry Night and Layered Earth software.

Additionally housed on campus is an Aquaculture Research and Education Laboratory designed to help meet the education, extension, and research needs of the region and its critical waterways. The objective is to train students to compete for professional jobs in various scientific arenas both in the U.S. and abroad.

The director of the LSAT Hub, Vanessa Atkins, said she wants students to consider the Hub their home, a place where a student can go to get direction and information they need to advance from level to level.

“A lot of people don’t realize the necessity of having a guide as you try to navigate the process of choosing a career that is going to be fulfilling and enriching,” she said. “Students are making decisions about what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives. We owe it to them to help them explore career options and interact with science professionals so that they can hone their networking skills and increase their opportunities.”

Atkins notes that STEM tutorials will be available this fall through the LSAT Hub to support academic progress.

Cheyney has set a goal of having 30 percent of its student body majoring in biosciences and technology within four years. President Walton believes that having an office like the Life Sciences and Technology Hub makes that target realistic.

“We have almost doubled the percentage of students majoring in STEM in four years. With the assets we have put into place, there is every reason to believe we can increase that figure and surpass our goal in these next four years,” Walton said.

Funding for the Hub comes from a Title III FUTURE Act Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, designed to assist HBCUs in expanding their capacity to offer STEM-related programs for their students.