Northeastern at AACRAO
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Biotech Students Move From Associate to Master’s to Employment
Linde Foundation award will ease challenges faced by learners in the final year of their studies
Amid a national workforce shortage, Northeastern’s unique Biotech A2M Scholars Program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), offers accelerated pathways for students from their associate to their master’s degree in biotechnology. The NSF grant supports students in the Biotech A2M program who start at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, MA, where they earn an associate degree with courses designed to map onto the Biotechnology bachelor’s degree at Northeastern. Students then go on to earn their MS in Biotechnology within the College of Science with one additional year of coursework. An additional philanthropic gift from the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation offers tuition assistance during their master’s studies at the Northeastern University College of Science. These robust scholarships bring the out-of-pocket cost to zero for these learners with demonstrated financial need, and who are eligible for federal Pell grants.
Bridging the Gap
While the Biotech A2M program has been extraordinarily successful in terms of retention and graduation rates, evidence has emerged that learners face unique challenges in their final year of studies as they seek to finish their degree and start a career.
A new grant from the Linde Foundation is set to help these students connect with employers, bridging the gap between school and jobs. The Linde Foundation grant funds the new “Degree to Career” program, helping learners finish their degrees and transition to employment in their chosen fields while also teaching soft skills essential to career advancement. Additionally, the Linde Foundation provides scholarship support for students in their last year of study, ensuring learners are able to complete their degrees without the cost of tuition as a barrier.
“The A2M programs create accessible pathways to in-demand fields with high-paying jobs,” says Dr. Liz Zulick, Director of the Lowell Institute School and Associate Dean for Research, Innovation, Discovery and Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. “This new grant will help biotech students stay on track in their crucial final year, supporting their transition from academia to industry.”
Path to a Career
The Biotech A2M is designed for full-time, domestic students, so far serving 154 learners. Over 66% identify as underrepresented minorities in STEM, 61% as first-generation learners and 66% as female. The average age is 29.
Zulick notes that many students must work full-time while attending classes and completing coursework online and at night. Nevertheless, the Biotech A2M program boasts impressively high rates of retention and job placement. While the retention rate nationally for a Bachelor of Science degree for STEM students is 56%, according to STEM Education Data and Trends 2014 the A2M degree pathway so far has retention rates that exceed 82% at all three degree levels. And 97% of those who have earned bachelor’s degrees are now working full-time in the biotech industry or have continued on to the next degree in the pathway.
Building on the success of the Biotech A2M program, the A2M4Tech program, with support from by the Akamai Foundation, was established in 2022 to serve the same function for students seeking careers in information technology and computer science.
More Than Degrees
“Education not only provides a pathway to high-paying jobs, but also provides access to social mobility to our learners and their communities,” Zulick says. “Thanks to the National Science Foundation, the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation, the Akamai Foundation, and now the Linde Foundation, we can create pathways designed for adult learners and their needs, allowing those who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost or time investment of a degree to enter the biotech and tech sectors.”
Biotechnology manufacturing is a rapidly growing industry that offers excellent career growth, but the sector faces both a shortage of skilled employees and a lack of racial and social diversity. In light of these factors, Zulick points out, the program is also a boon to employers.
“Importantly, these pathways also offer industry partners a talent pipeline that is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and income,” Zulick says, “which is an increasingly high priority for many employers. So, these programs are truly win-win.”
A Gift Across Generations
In funding a named scholarship, Jean A. Kovacs pays forward a debt of gratitude for the life-altering education she received at Northeastern
When Jean A. Kovacs, who graduated from Northeastern’s University College in 1983, left foster care in Wilmington, MA, at age 18, the career paths for a woman of her background looked extremely limited.
“As a female,” she told students and families at the 2022 CPS Undergraduate Scholarship Celebration, “you were either going to be a nurse or a teacher, or maybe you’d get a job as a clerk, typist, or a secretary.”
Kovacs started as a clerk-typist at a small company near Wilmington, and soon fell in love with the world of business. She knew she would need an education to rise in the field, and she started taking evening classes—marketing, computer science, accounting—at Northeastern’s Burlington campus. A few years later, thanks to the availability of evening and weekend classes, she finished her degree.
“I was learning things in class that I could then bring and apply at work, so it made the learning process so much more real for me,” Kovacs said. “My job got better, my work performance got better, but also the effort that I put into my classes got better, because I could see the application.”
“That,” she said, “is what I love about the College of Professional Studies.”
Decades later, the entrepreneur, venture capitalist, angel investor, and onetime finance major was present at the Scholarship Celebration to present the inaugural Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment she established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She has come a long way from those early days, and now she wants to pay it forward.
“My head and my heart go out to you and all the work you’ve done,” she told students. “My story is probably very similar to a lot of you.”
Among those in the room was Cynthia Thin, ’23, a finance and accounting management major and the first recipient of the Kovacs Scholarship. The daughter of Cambodian immigrants, Thin worked from a young age to support herself and her family. At 16, she recalled in the speech she gave at the reception, she was working seven days a week, even as she maintained her studies in high school.
One reason Northeastern has been such a good fit, Thin says, is that it has offered the flexibility her family needs. On a typical day, she’ll help her partner with his bakery until 7 a.m., arrive at the office by 8 a.m., work until 5 p.m. and then attend class in the evening. When she completes her degree next spring, Thin plans to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.
“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”
Reflecting on her scholarship in her remarks at the reception, Kovacs said she was thrilled to meet Thin, and that the experience “sort of brings everything back full circle.” As she introduced Thin, she also offered her an invitation to continue the circle of giving.
“I’d also like to challenge you that in 20 or 30 years you’re up here because you’ve established the Cynthia Thin scholarship,” she said with a smile. “Congratulations.”
Gifts to support scholarships for CPS undergraduate students in any amount can be made by clicking here .
Small Business Owner Makes Big Move in Support of Ukraine
For more than ten years, College of Professional Studies alumna Natalie Kaminski ’06 owned a successful software company outside of Moscow. But when Russia attacked Ukraine earlier this year, the childhood she spent living in Ukraine spurred Kaminski’s decision to quickly help dozens of employees and the business move across the border to Georgia.
After a narrow escape, the company and its employees are making their way in a new home.
Annual Undergraduate Scholarship Reception Honors Students, Benefactors
Supporting scholarships is all about giving back. Dozens of Huskies who received scholarships to support their education—dating back to the time of University College in the 1960s—have made the choice to establish named scholarships to support future generations of students following in their footsteps. Paying it forward is a long-standing tradition at the College of Professional Studies; so, it’s no surprise that in her speech at the annual undergraduate scholarship reception on August 23, 2022, Jean Kovacs, UC’83, challenged her own named scholarship recipient to do just that in the future when she is able.
Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, is the inaugural recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment that Jean established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Cynthia happens to be interested in both. Once she completes her degree in Finance and Accounting Management next spring, Cynthia intends to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.
“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said in the speech she gave at the reception. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”
The financial benefit of a scholarship is most often compounded by the human connection and encouragement of a benefactor. “There is no doubt in my mind that Cynthia has the passion and drive to achieve the lofty goals she has set for herself, just as Jean did before her,” added Dean Radhika Seshan as she closed the annual reception.
The College of Professional Studies celebrates 224 undergraduate students who received scholarships totaling $421,000 for the 2022-2023 academic year, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of Northeastern.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Try Microdosing Bravery
To overcome anxiety and cultivate resilience, CPS behavioral science professor and psychotherapist Kristen Lee recommends taking small, strategic risks on a day-to-day basis that align with our values.
In her new book, Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More and Offer Yourself to the World, Lee offers a practical toolkit designed to help readers build confidence and invite a deeper level of satisfaction into their lives.
What Freedom of Religion Should Look Like in Public Schools After a Recent Supreme Court Decision?
As students are set to return to classrooms for a new school year, the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is raising fears that the ruling undermines the traditional separation of church and state in public education.
Karen Reiss-Medwed and Noor Ali, professors in the Graduate School of Education at CPS, argue that K-12 schools need to do better in recognizing and honoring the identities of students who belong to religious minorities.
Is There a New Labor Movement Afoot in the US?
Former top advisor to President Biden and Distinguished Professor of the Practice Seth Harris weighs in on efforts to unionize at Amazon, Starbucks and more and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers. Harris teaches in the Northeastern College of Professional Studies doctoral program in Law and Policy and is an affiliated faculty member and senior fellow, Burnes Center for Social Change at Northeastern University.
Northeastern Food Policy Expert Honored for 30 Years of Advocacy
In the time since an E. coli outbreak took his son’s life, CPS Associate Teaching Professor Darin Detwiler has advised USDA and FDA leaders, spoken at conferences, and taught, all with one goal–to prevent more families from experiencing the same tragedy.
The Shackles of the United Nations Security Council Veto, Explained
The Russian Federation is one of five nations that hold unilateral veto power on the U.N. Security Council–a group known as the “P5” that also includes the US, China, France, and the UK. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others argue that permanent members’ ability to obstruct resolutions has rendered the international organization irrelevant. Is it time to reform the veto power? CPS Associate Teaching Professor Fiona Creed, a U.N. scholar, explains this complex situation.