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College receives National Science Foundation Grant Nationwide recruitment efforts include Worcester Public Schools

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of $586,509 to Holy Cross for support of a scholarship initiative that will aid academically promising students from low income families who are interested in studying the sciences. This new endeavor, titled “Clavius Scholars Program” is directed by Richard S. Herrick, professor of chemistry and science coordinator; De-Ping Yang, associate professor of physics; Jane M. Van Doren, professor of chemistry; John T. Anderson, professor and chair of the mathematics department; and Mary Lee S. Ledbetter, professor and chair of the biology department.

“The mission of this program has two main goals,” Herrick explains: “to target academically promising students who have financial need, including students from groups underrepresented in the sciences, and to instill in them an appreciation of the process of science and math and a love of learning they will take with them as they leave Holy Cross.”

The Clavius Scholars Program began with a planning year in the fall. As part of this process, a pilot program has been implemented with six Clavius scholars—which includes close monitoring of their progress and successes.  Sixteen students will be admitted to Holy Cross as Clavius scholars in fall 2008; majoring in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, or physics, they will be anticipating careers as scientists.

The nationwide recruitment for participants in the program will target schools whose students’ families have lower incomes—with special emphasis placed on attracting applicants from the Worcester Public Schools. The Admissions Office is currently developing recruitment literature that will be distributed to guidance counselors as well as students expressing interest in the sciences.

“My staff will be promoting the program as they visit high schools in Worcester and throughout the country,” says Ann McDermott, director of admissions and a major contributor to receiving the grant. “Students wishing to be considered for the program will be instructed to file a letter stating their interest in the Clavius Program.” 

This initiative is named after Christopher Clavius, S.J. (1538-1612), a Jesuit mathematician, physicist and astronomer. Among his achievements, Clavius was the first to use the decimal point to separate whole numbers from decimal fractions. He also contributed to the creation of the Vernier scale for precision measurements; devised the Gregorian calendar to correct the inaccuracies of the Julian calendar; wrote a number of commonly used mathematical textbooks; and advocated for the inclusion of mathematics and sciences in the Ratio Studiorum, thereby ensuring that those disciplines would be included in Jesuit education throughout the world. 

“For the students, the name Clavius will represent the ideal for mathematical and scientific discovery that they will take with them when they become tomorrow’s scientists,” Herrick explains.

Other major contributors to the writing of the proposal include: William Morse, associate professor of English and associate dean; Tina Chen, director of academic services and learning resources; and Denise Bell, director of the Office of Assessment and Research.




Christopher Clavius, S.J.
Christopher Clavius, S.J.

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