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Appalachian receives $497,074 NSF grant to support math and computer science education

BOONE—Computer science and mathematical science majors at Appalachian State University continues to receive support from the National Science Foundation.

View larger imageScholarship recipients in Appalachian State University’s High Achievers Scholarship Program in Computer Science and Mathematics posed for this picture during the spring 2014 semester. The students can receive $6,280 a year scholarship for up to four years that is funded by a National Science Foundation grant. The program is directed by Dr. Rahman Tashakorri, kneeling third from left. Other faculty from the Department of Computer Science as well as the Department of Mathematical Sciences help direct the program. (Photo submitted)

The High Achievers Scholarship Program in Computer Science and Mathematics in the Department of Computer Science has received a $497,074 grant from NSF to support graduate and undergraduate scholarships and support research and presentations at professional conferences.

The goal of the NSF program is to increase the numbers of students majoring in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academic disciplines, which include computer science and mathematics. This is the second year the program has received support from the NSF.

Dr. Rahman Tashakorri, the Lowes Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Appalachian, directs the program. “We built a strong community of learners the first year of the grant, which is what we were hoping for,” he said. “They help each other in their research and coursework and mentor other students in computer science and mathematics. They are really good mentors and good role models.”

Students selected for the program receive a $6,280 a year scholarship for up to four years, which covers tuition and fees at Appalachian. The scholarship is renewable if recipients meet GPA and other requirements.

The program enrolled 18 students its first year– five math majors and 13 computer science majors – ranging from freshmen to graduate students. Four of last year’s scholarship recipients attended the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and two of the students presented at the conference. Four of the students also are continuing their education in graduate schools at Appalachian.

Tashakorri plans to add eight more students to the program in the 2014-15 academic year.

Michael Crawford, a graduate student in computer science, said receiving the scholarship had removed the pressure of worrying about student loans or grants. Another benefit has been the leadership opportunities it has provided him. “It has enabled me to serve as a leader on team projects outside of class,” he said. Mentoring other students is one of the scholarship requirements.

Crawford, who is from Taylorsville, has partnered with senior computer science major and Jacksonville resident Nathaniel Hernandez on research related to developing hardware and software program to monitor bee hives. They presented their research at the 2014 National Conference on Undergraduate Research held at the University of Kentucky.

Tashakorri said the majority of students graduating from Appalachian’s computer science program remain in North Carolina, working as software engineers in the banking industry or for companies such as Lowe’s, Microsoft or Google.

In addition to Tashakorri, other faculty involved in the interdisciplinary project as program directors are Dr. James Wilkes, chair of the Department of Computer Science, Dr. Mark Ginn, chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Dr. Cindy Norris, a professor in the computer science department, and Dr. Vicky Klima, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Senior personnel members are Dr. Alan Utter, interim vice provost for research and director of the Office of Student Research, and Dr. Eric Marland, a professor in the math department.

For more information about the program, visit