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UF/IFAS CALS Major Offers Scholarships to Transfer Students with Florida College AA Degrees

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Charlene Mitchell, 21, wanted to become a microbiologist since the age of 10. As the first in her single-parent family to attend college, Mitchell decided to start her higher education experience at Pensacola State College before transferring to the University of Florida. Once at UF, she discovered she qualified for a scholarship through the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department, which also included a paid summer research internship opportunity.

Mitchell’s scholarship was made possible by the grant, “Florida Pathways to Success: A Research University/Minority-Serving Community College Partnership to Enhance Retention and Diversity of Transfer Students (NSF DUE 1643780).” The grant is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program.

“I am really thankful to the microbiology and cell science department,” Mitchell said. “I know college is a privilege and I want others to know it’s possible to earn a degree no matter where you come from.”

The Florida Pathways Transfer Student scholarships are available to transfer students majoring in microbiology and cell science in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Scholarship applicants must have an associate’s degree from a Florida public college, demonstrated financial need and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Both UF Online and on-campus students who are full-time (12-credit course load) may apply for the scholarship. The average annual scholarship award per student is $6,500 and is renewable for two academic years.

“The overall goal of the NSF S-STEM program is to increase the number of academically talented students with financial need who complete college degrees, and our specific focus is on increasing the number of transfer students who obtain their Bachelor of Science degree in STEM,” said Jennifer Drew, project principal investigator and lecturer in the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department. “Ultimately through this project, we aim to improve the education of future scientists and identify factors that affect the success and retention in STEM of low-income transfer students.”

Through a collaboration with Miami Dade College, the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department has been working for the past several years on ways to increase the accessibility of a STEM degree and broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. The partnership has resulted in an innovative hybrid online transfer program to increase the enrollment and retention of two-year students who are not able to relocate to the UF campus in Gainesville to complete their four-year degree. The state college is also a key partner on the Florida Pathways S-STEM program grant.

“The barriers to transfer student success can include financial, social and familial responsibilities,” said Alexandria Ardissone, Florida Pathways project manager and assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department. “Strengthening the transfer pathway through scholarships and other avenues should increase retention, shorten the time to earn a degree, and broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM.”

The UF/IFAS microbiology and cell science department awarded its first scholarships in spring 2018 and has awarded scholarships to 51 students to date. Of these students, 66 percent are women and 36 percent are from minority groups underrepresented in STEM. The project aims to award up to 400 scholarships to eligible students through the duration of the grant.

“CALS and the microbiology and cell science department have helped me achieve the dream of becoming a scientist through this scholarship and research experience,” Mitchell said. “My internship introduced me to the techniques of molecular research and showed me how scientists, grant systems and Ph.D. programs work. In the long-run, I want to earn my Ph.D. and work in a research lab.”

To apply for the scholarship, visit Additional questions can be directed to


By: Dana Edwards, 352-392-1963,

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. The University of Florida is ranked No. 8 in the list of top 10 best public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Visit the CALS website at, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.


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