IST faculty receive NSF funding to support socioeconomically disadvantaged students 


Several faculty members in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology received a planning grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to work on developing effective support mechanisms for low-income students.  

"Our overarching objective is to alleviate the financial burdens that often impede academic progression, ensuring that students can focus on their studies," said Max Albanese, an associate professor working on the project. Albanese is principal investigator alongside co-PIs Ozlem Uzuner, Ioulia Rytikova, Mihai Boicu, and Zhisheng YanKhondkar Islam is assisting as senior personnel.  

Central to this initiative, which is called “Establishing a Partnership for Increasing Enrollment, Retention, and Graduation of Low-Income Information Technology Students in the National Capital Region,” is the collaboration between George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Specifically, the research team aims to improve the already established framework that supports students transferring from NOVA into the IST department’s bachelor’s degree program. 

The planning grant from the NSF acts as "seed money" for a grander vision. "This initial funding is our stepping stone towards a substantial $5 million endeavor over six years, illustrating the magnitude of impact we envision," said Albanese. 

Currently, the project is in a data-collection phase, with the team identifying relevant metrics to assess students’ performance and financial needs at NOVA and George Mason. This empirical groundwork will lay the foundation for subsequent interventions, which will be tailored to the specific needs of academically promising, low-income students. 

"We aim to devise novel strategies for assessing and nurturing student capabilities, recognizing that academic potential transcends traditional metrics like GPA," said Albanese.  

The team’s multifaceted approach, which transcends monetary aid to consider academic mentorship and evidence-based interventions, heralds a new chapter in the pursuit of equitable access to higher education. Albanese hopes the project not only reinforces George Mason’s position as a hub of innovative research and inclusive excellence but also effects positive change for students grappling with socioeconomic barriers to academic success.