DSU receives two grants totaling $6.2 million

Delaware State University announced Monday the school’s Opitcs Program had been awarded $5 miilion by NASA. Members of the optics staff from left to right are Dr. Mukti Rana, Dr. Amir Khan, Dr. Renu Tripathi, Dr. Noureddine Melikechi and Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

Delaware State University announced Monday the school’s Opitcs Program had been awarded $5 miilion by NASA. Members of the optics staff from left to right are Dr. Mukti Rana, Dr. Amir Khan, Dr. Renu Tripathi, Dr. Noureddine Melikechi and Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

DOVER — Monday was one day in a million at Delaware State University. Make that a $6.2 million day.

That’s the total of two different grants announced at the campus at a morning press conference, a $1.2 million for student education and $5 million from NASA for the university’s optics program.

The lesser grant will go to help low-income and first-generation college students overcome the obstacles that prevent students from reaching graduation, officials say.

Delaware State University has paired with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce those obstacles.

“We believe in this country higher education is the bridge to opportunity,” said Dan Greenstein, director of Post-Secondary Education at the Gates Foundation. “For far too many this bridge is far too narrow, too complicated to cross and the toll is too high.”

After several visits to DSU by Mr. Greenstein and other Gates Foundation staff, the decision was made to give $1.2 million to help DSU in its efforts to make a college diploma more attainable for hundreds, maybe even thousands of students.

“The grant we are making are for institutions that refuse to accept the status quo in higher education and refuse to accept that 40 percent of students who start college never earn a degree,” Mr. Greenstein said. “Our goal is to shine a spotlight on their work as they discover what works for their students and for this country so that others may follow.”

One of the efforts of DSU that attracted the Gates Foundation was the 2015 implementation of an Individualized Development Plan — a mentoring tool given to each freshman that allows their skills and strengths to be assessed so the student may be guided throughout their education to create the best opportunities and determine how to reach their goals.

DSU will collect statistical data over the next 10 years to determine the effectiveness of IDP. University president Harry L. Williams said DSU is looking forward to aggressively using the IDP program and seeing greater education rates over the coming years.

“What we know about students here at our university is the number one reason they do not return is not because they cannot do it academically, it’s because they can’t afford to come back,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to put all the tools in place to support our students throughout their education here.”

Low-income and first-generation college students weren’t the only ones receiving news Monday — the Optics Program also felt some love in the form of a $5 million grant from NASA.

The grant comes with specific goals including developing two new lasers to analyze different aspects of Earth’s atmosphere and the creation of a infrared detector to be used in space applications.

Students will be involved in all the research and development of the new technologies.

“These goals include a huge education component for students,” Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, founder of DSU’s Optics Program, said Monday. “Their involvement will allow us to create the next generation of scientists.”

He emphasized the importance of the grant creating a rich, intelligent environment for young minds to learn and grow and that engagement through research raises student retention rates and students furthering their education.

Dr. Melikechi has worked with NASA in the past on technology used on Mars and now that water has been identified on the red planet, the hope of discovering life has increased. Dr. Melikechi will continue to play a role in future research.

“It is with great pride that DSU will continue to be connected to NASA’s Mars mission through the work of Dr. Noureddine Melikechi and OSCAR,” Dr. Williams said, referring to the Optical Science Center for Applied Research.

“The research funded by this grant will not only make its mark on the world, but far beyond it on the red planet.”

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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