Francisca Benitez

The Advancing Science and Technology in Eastern Oregon scholarship is a scholarship program created to hbenefit students who are academically talented and want to pursue a career in a STEM field — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s more than just a monetary boost, though. ASTEO scholars are also offered unique opportunities to network and participate in an internship in their field.

ASTEO is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“It’s designed specifically to provide scholarships for students who are academically talented and financially limited,” said Anna Cavinato, EOU professor of chemistry and principal investigator of the program, which was introduced in 2016.

A group of five students in the program and Cavinato presented to the EOU Board of Trustees at the regular meeting on April 11 to show the board how successful the program has been.

Cavinato said according to assessments comparing students in the ASTEO program with students who are not and who have the same degrees and similar SAT or ACT scores, ASTEO scholars are performing better. They are less likely to drop out before completing their degrees, and take more credits at a time, allowing them to graduate faster. Their grade point averages are also higher.

“These results are encouraging because they indicate we are fulfilling project goals including recruiting, retaining and graduating academically talented and financially disadvantaged students in STEM disciplines,” Cavinato said.

The program provides up to $7,500 per year for tuition. It also requires students to take a year-long seminar class that introduces them to research methods, connects them with professors in STEM and sets up an internship in their field.

“We encourage the students to do things that a scientist would be doing, like research and working with professionals. Then they can get a sense of what it takes to be a practicing scientist in their field,” Cavinato said.

Darin Hauner is an ASTEO scholar and an EOU senior. He is double majoring in computer science and chemistry with a math minor. He said the program was instrumental in helping him achieve his goals.

“Obviously the financial support has been wonderful (and) has allowed me to take on all these majors and minors. But I think the more impactful side is the culture and the companionship of being around all the other ASTEO scholars and having that really close personal relationship with an awesome professor like Anna Cavinato,” he said.

“The ASTEO scholarship really did give me that confidence necessary to apply for the internship that I have this upcoming summer, which is at PNNL — Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,” he said.

Hauner’s internship is through the Department of Energy.” I’ll be working with quantum computing and chemistry, a mixture of my two majors,” he said.

Korie Klein, a freshman studying chemistry, also said the benefits of the program are beyond financial. She said the support the program offered helped her make connections with professors in STEM that made her feel more confident.

“It really helps you just be able to navigate college more easily and get on track and stay on track,” she said.

The financial aspect is certainly not something to overlook, however.

“Because of the ASTEO scholarship I’m able to go to college. I wouldn’t be able to afford college without it — without having to have loans,” said Daniel Holloway, a junior studying computer science. “I work two jobs as it is. Having a loan on top of that would really hinder me,” he said.

See complete story in Monday's Observer