In its fifth year, the NSF-awarded Florida IT Pathways to Success project (Flit-Path) has provided 127 scholarships to FIU students in computer science, information technology and computer engineering. Ninety of these students have graduated and are working in the STEM field or pursuing graduate degrees.
The five-year grant was created to provide financial and co-curricular support for academically talented, financially needy students in IT-related majors. The $5 million project is a collaborative effort within the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities—which includes FIU, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida. Together, these universities cover a service area that includes 64 percent of Florida’s population and 48 percent of all undergraduate STEM students enrolled in the State University System.
The Flit-Path program began recruiting students for two cohort types back in 2016: freshmen (Year 1 and Year 2) who were supported for eight semesters and received $2,500 per semester or $5,000 per year, and seniors (Years 1 – 5) who were given $1,220 per semester or $2,440 per year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, scholars received additional funds.
Students at each institution also were provided with academic advising, mentoring and tutoring, direct support from internship/career offices, career readiness training and access to distinguished speakers. These pathways were designed to help students explore and decide whether to pursue industry employment, start-up opportunities or academic research in graduate school.
"In addition to providing funding, S-STEM [Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] programs provide critical support that helps students reach their academic goals and prepare them for careers in industry, research or academia," said Mark Weiss, a distinguished university professor in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences and lead PI of the grant.
Flit-Path students were grateful for the support.
“Being part of the program contributed to my plan as a graduate student,” said Darien Sosa Perez, who is currently a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at FIU at the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences.
Sosa Perez was a 2019-2020 Flit-Path Scholar recipient and graduated with a bachelor's in information technology from the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences. He Perez said he is grateful for the resume training that took place.
“At the FIU Career Fair, I was able to hand my resume to recruiters with a lot more confidence because it reflected who I am as an individual," he said. "Right after that, I got a lot of callbacks from recruiters.”
His advice to future Flit-Path students: “Find one or two teachers you can connect very well with and ask lots of questions. Maybe someday they can be a reference for you.”
Widny Alcime, currently pursuing a bachelor's in IT, has been a Flit-Path scholar since 2018 and is part of a freshman cohort.
“This program gives me a lot of motivation because it continues to show the results of hard work,” he said. “The scholarship has helped me to concentrate on my studies. I will graduate early or on time and will be able to do an internship this summer."