Prof wins YSU's largest-ever NSF grant

Cory Brozina, assistant professor and director of first-year engineering in the Rayen School of Engineering at Youngstown State University, has received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation, the largest YSU has ever received from the NSF.

The project titled, “Developing and Encouraging Engineering Professionals within a Commuter Student Population (YSU-DEEP-C),” aims to increase the enrollment and graduation of high-achieving undergraduate engineering commuter students with demonstrated financial need at YSU.

“This award has the opportunity to change the national landscape of how universities support commuter students studying engineering,” said Brozina, who joined YSU’s faculty in 2016 after working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Starting locally at YSU, we plan to not only increase enrollment but increase excitement in the Rayen School of Engineering, and help more students graduate with engineering degrees.”

YSU-DEEP-C focuses on the additional challenges imposed on commuting students and applies recognized scholarly techniques and research tools to study impacts of commuter status on student success in engineering, while evolving concrete strategies to improve the student experience more broadly.

Along with Brozina as the principal investigator, the two co-principal investigators on the grant are Hazel Marie, distinguished professor and coordinator of Mechanical Engineering, and Kathleen Cripe, distinguished associate professor of Teacher Education. The grant has four main focuses:

  • Recruitment initiatives focused on women’s outreach and pre-college programs to increase the number of students studying engineering at YSU.
  • Over a five-year period, $624,000 in scholarships distributed to two cohorts of YSU commuter students who are Pell eligible and pursuing bachelor’s degrees in engineering fields.
  • YSU-DEEP-C scholarship recipients will also engage in programs concentrated on community building, mentoring, professional and leadership skill development.
  • The grant also includes funding to research how YSU and other universities can best support the needs of engineering students who commute to campus.

Brozina, who earned bachelor’s, master’s and a PhD from Virginia Tech, said there is limited scholarly literature on the integration of commuter students into college support systems. He said YSU, which features a primarily commuter campus with several fully accredited engineering programs, provides a perfect institutional setting for such research.

The project is funded by NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program (Award No. 203894), which seeks to increase the number of academically-talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of students.