NSF-Funded Program at Santa Fe College Prepares Students for STEM Careers

NSF-Funded Program at Santa Fe College Prepares Students for STEM Careers

April 26, 2017 – With National Science Foundation (NSF) funding support, Santa Fe College is currently recruiting students from groups that are underrepresented in science to participate in the Geoscience Engagement and Outreach program. The GEO program, a partnership between Santa Fe College, the University of Florida and the Orlando Science Center, will admit its next class in January 2018.

“We are really fortunate that the National Science Foundation supports this partnership and recognizes that we can encourage underrepresented students to consider geosciences,” explained SF Associate Professor of Geography Heidi Lannon. She heads the GEO program for Santa Fe College that is funded by $489,670 from NSF.

Groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields include people of nontraditional college age, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, military veterans, GED awardees, first-generation college attendees and students who are dually enrolled in high school and college.

At SF, students in the GEO program take seminar-style classes and get help navigating through the process of applying to four-year colleges and universities. At UF, students work closely with mentors Corene Matyas, Jasmeet Judge and Katie Stofer—who specialize in meteorology, soil hydrology, and STEM education—to learn how scientific research is conducted. In the program’s outreach experience, the Orlando Science Center provides participants with a salaried summer internship that emphasizes the skills they need to develop in order to have successful careers.

Students bond as a cohort (group) through shared experiences that include underground exploration at the SF Bat Cave and an overnight field trip to the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory that is jointly run by UF and SF in the Gulf of Mexico. “Who wouldn’t want to spend time in the field learning about the physical environment as an undergraduate?” Lannon asked.

In early April, Lannon presented the results of the program’s first year at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) in Boston, where she was also elected to chair AAG’s Coastal and Marine Specialty Group. The second GEO cohort is currently in progress.

Lannon, Matyas, Judge and Stofer, as well as the Orlando Science Center staff, help students understand the importance of spatial relationships in our lives, whether at the beach, in GPS systems, in research, or at work. “There is nothing like that moment when a student realizes that almost every aspect of their lives has a spatial component,” Lannon said.

Recruiting for the program’s third year has begun and will extend through the end of October 2017. Information is available online at:

To learn more about the GEO program and/or the NSF grant, contact Lannon at, telephone 352-381-7082, or Honors Program Coordinator Bobby Hom at, telephone 352-395-4141.