MACHS Scholars Program

Merrimack Achieves Collegiate Holistic Support (MACHS) Scholars is a new program that provides high-achieving low-income students interested in pursuing a STEM degree with academic scholarships.

About MACHS Scholars

Thanks to an almost $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Merrimack will fully fund up to 20 low-income academic scholars looking to major in one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. The first cohort of students will be selected in spring 2021 and will matriculate in the fall.

Supporting Low-Income STEM Students

Research reveals that underprivileged students transitioning from high school to undergraduate STEM programs face many hurdles, including:

  • inadequate academic preparation
  • loss of motivation
  • difficulty adjusting to a college environment

Additionally, low-income students are more likely than their peers to leave STEM fields and leave college entirely. By changing the undergraduate experience of low-income STEM students, Merrimack faculty hope to enrich their college experience and better prepare them for careers in their chosen fields.

MACHS Scholars Programming

MACHS Scholars will spend two hours together as a cohort each week in a class targeting four program areas.

The first hour of the class will focus on academics. The second hour will be led by a mental health clinician, who will focus programming on specific themes and objectives.

Topics will change each year and address adjustment to college, career exploration, applying academic skills and career readiness.

Benefits of the MACHS Scholars Program

The MACHS Scholars Program provides financial, academic and social support to high-achieving STEM students from a variety of different backgrounds. A key element of the program is its unique holistic support. To reduce stress and promote success, students will be encouraged to develop and maintain their mental health, wellness and mindfulness. They will also have the opportunity to engage with a mental health clinician on an as-needed basis throughout their undergraduate program. Additional benefits include:

Generous Tuition Assistance

Each recipient is eligible for up to $8,100 per academic year. The maximum award per recipient is $32,400.

The program is projected to fund 20 STEM students in the School of Science and Engineering over five years: seven students in 2022, seven students in 2023 and six students in 2024.

Summer Bridge Program

MACHS Scholars participate in a five-day bridge program to help them adjust to college life and form strong peer networks.

Cohort-specific programming includes academic achievement, experiential learning, self-efficacy, and mental health and wellness. Students also review math study skills, college reading and writing, martial arts, mindfulness, and career and financial planning.

First Year Experience

Like other first-year students, MACHS Scholars will participate in Merrimack College’s one-credit First Year Experience course, which is taught by an instructor from the student’s academic area.

Funded Undergraduate Research

The grant provides for students to conduct research in a professor’s lab. This allows students who would normally have to work off-campus to instead focus on their laboratory knowledge and skills.

Co-curricular Activities

The grant will help students develop “soft skills” that will teach them how to network with other STEM professionals, explore potential career pathways and take part in practical experiences such as internships and research projects. The O’Brien Center for Career Development and Internship Institute will provide career and internship services to all students in the MACHS Scholars program.

Funding for MACHS Scholars

The MACHS Scholars grant was led by Principal Investigator, Dr. Rickey Caldwell, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Caldwell was inspired to write the grant to attract students who might not otherwise seek STEM degrees—whether they face financial or cultural barriers, or they simply do not have role models in a STEM field.

Caldwell collaborated with a number of co-principal investigators at Merrimack across disciplines to design the grant’s wraparound support and program evaluation tools. Co-principal investigators include Dr. Gwyne White (Psychology), Dr. Brandi Baldock (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Dr. William McDowell (Biology), Dr. Russell Olwell (Education and Social Policy), and Dr. Julia St. Goar (Mathematics).

“As a person of color, I realized, as I was moving through the ranks in engineering, that I didn’t see other brown people in the field. I thought, what is happening that these individuals aren’t making it through? How can we resolve this issue?”

Who is Eligible for MACHS?

MACHS Scholars recipients must not only show financial need, but they must demonstrate academic excellence and intend to pursue a STEM major at Merrimack. Students must apply to undergraduate admissions and be accepted before they are considered for a scholarship. To be eligible, students must:

  • Have earned a 3.3 high school GPA
  • Fill out a FAFSA to show financial need
  • Be a United States citizen, permanent resident, or have refugee status
  • Agree to live on campus
  • Major in a Merrimack STEM field

The Undergraduate Office of Admission will assist in recruiting students, providing the MACHS Scholars Steering Committee with the names of potential candidates. The steering committee will identify scholarship recipients based on financial need, high school transcripts, essays and interviews. Scholarship recipients will be chosen by May 1, and their awards will be applied the following fall.

Research Outcomes

The research objective of the MACHS Scholars grant is to demonstrate how funding, academic support, and wellness resources together create a successful STEM experience for low-income students. In addition to evaluating the impact of each of these elements on student achievement and retention, the program will also measure student grit, resilience and mental health risk factors.

Researchers seek to better understand which combination of these interventions best helps low-income students navigate university life and their STEM programs—and ultimately empowers them to obtain employment in their fields. Grant outcomes will be shared with other colleges and universities that share the same goal of increasing the STEM talent pipeline with a diverse student base.

Project Objectives
  • Students will show equal or greater academic achievement at the conclusion of their program relative to a Merrimack College peer group. 
  • At least 85% of MACHS Scholars will graduate with a STEM major.
  • Students will show a progressive reduction of mental health risks; including symptoms of anxiety and depression and score higher on measures of adaptability.
  • Grant recipients will show improved resilience.

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“As a first-generation college student, I had no role models in my family to teach me how to succeed at college and worked 20 hours per week to support myself throughout my undergraduate studies. I was inspired to work on this grant because I wanted to provide support to other academically talented students who could excel-if only they had additional financial, academic and social support during their studies.”