Three Florida public universities are joining forces to help academically talented juniors in computer-related fields complete their undergraduate studies and pursue their graduate education.
Florida International University, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida — which together make up the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities — have collectively received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to form the Florida IT Graduation Attainment Pathways (Flit-GAP) program.
“Together with our partners, FIU has the opportunity to collaborate and discover ways to strengthen support for students and help them identify the right studies and pathways that will help them earn a degree that will determine their career success,” said Mark Weiss, distinguished university professor, Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences and associate dean for undergraduate education, FIU's College of Engineering and Computing.
“The goal of Flit-GAP is to recruit, retain and guide to success (graduate and help find a professional pathway) 150 academically talented, financially challenged students in the computing disciplines, most of whom are underrepresented in the computing field,” said Kenneth Christensen, professor and associate chair, USF Computer Science and Engineering.
A total of 50 students at each of the three institutions will be able to benefit from the program, which provides a scholarship of up to $10,000 per year; a designated advisor and faculty mentor; and professional pathway experiences such as research, an internship and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Juniors eligible for the Flit-GAP program must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, have a 3.0 GPA or higher and have reached junior status by the summer prior or start of the fall semester. Eligible candidates will also need to prove financial need, as determined by student financial services, and have declared a major in either computer science, computer engineering, cybersecurity or information technology.
“While Ph.D. students in computer-related disciplines do not have to pay for graduate school because they work as TAs or RAs (and receive a stipend in addition), most MS students have to pay their own way. There are very few scholarship opportunities for MS students, and Flit-GAP fills that void,” said Mark Heinrich, associate chair and associate professor, undergraduate coordinator for CS/IT, and senior design coordinator, Department of Computer Sciences at UCF.
While Flit-GAP is a new program, students in the Flit-Path program, which provided financial support to all IT-related disciplines, strongly recommend the new experience.
"As a freshman at FIU, Flit-Path offered me many opportunities and connections that helped guarantee my success later in my career,” said Danay Fernandez '21, now a front-end developer intern at IBM and FIU graduate with an MS in computer science. “I made friends that guided me on what classes to take, offered internship advice and even helped me succeed during my internship. It was also through Flit-Path that I learned about the Accelerated Pathway in Computer Science that I am now pursuing."
For others who also participated in the Flit-Path program, the financial support they received was pivotal to getting them to the finish line – graduation.
“Flit-Path gave me the financial resource I so needed to complete my senior year on time before joining Microsoft after graduating FIU,” said Elizabeth Alume '20, project manager at Microsoft.
In addition to creating a unique hybrid learning community between FIU, UCF and USF, Flit-GAP uses improved technology to engage students in unique virtual collaborations, workshops and networking events within the state’s three largest employer markets. This provides students with a distinctive opportunity to explore their career interests by rotating through internship, research or entrepreneurship pathways. It also facilitates the sharing of innovative, education-based research with other universities across the country seeking to enhance students’ academic experience.
"Flit-GAP will have broader impacts on our Panthers and the community with the diverse pathways it offers and the holistic supports it will provide along with the scholarships,” said Tiana Solis, assistant teaching professor, Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, FIU.
For more information, visit flit-GAP.org.To apply, contact Tiana Solis at firstname.lastname@example.org.