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US students pursue STEM education

The Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) is designed to increase the number of underrepresented professionals in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce by providing scholarships to students pursuing STEM degrees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). FOSSI recipients receive a $10 000 per year scholarship for four years, enabling them to cover the majority of their tuition and fees.

Meet Skye Taylor

  • ​​​Hometown: Gonzales, La.
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Interests: Robotics (animatronics) and prosthetics

Skye Taylor was only eight years old when she realized she wanted to be an engineer.

During a family trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, Taylor found herself more interested in how the attractions worked than she was in the princesses or parades.

“I wanted to know how the rides were built, and what it took to keep them running safely,” she said. “My parents told me that was a job that engineers do, and from then on I was hooked.”

​​​​​​​Thanks to a scholarship from Sasol Chemicals, Taylor is now pursuing her dream by studying mechanical engineering at Southern University in Baton Rouge. She is one of three first-year engineering students at Southern who received scholarships from Sasol Chemicals through the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI), a national program created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

As part of the program, each Sasol scholarship recipient is matched with a mentor inside the company who provides regular support and encouragement. Scholarship recipients can also apply to work as an intern at the company and gain valuable firsthand experience.

​​​​​​​The FOSSI scholarship program is just one of the initiatives in a long-term partnership between Sasol Chemicals and Southern University, designed to provide students with the resources to pursue careers in high-demand, high-growth fields. In addition to supporting students through FOSSI, Sasol Chemicals funded an endowment to Southern that will award up to 100 additional scholarships for STEM students through 2030. The fund will also allow for an endowed chair and doctoral fellowship in global science and related fields.

Meet Carlton Carter

  • Hometown: Evans, Ga.
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Interests: Aerospace, transportation and chemicals

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Carlton Carter, a freshman from Georgia majoring in mechanical engineering, says his FOSSI scholarship has already proven invaluable.

“The money really, really helps,” he said. “It made a big difference, knowing I could count on that funding. Plus, the mentoring program has been very helpful. It’s given me insight into how business works and what I can expect once I finish my degree.”

Meet Brendan Evans

  • Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Major: Civil Engineering
  • Interests: Construction

Brendan Evans, a Southern freshman from Los Angeles who is majoring in civil engineering, is also a pitcher on the Jaguars baseball team.

“The FOSSI scholarship means a lot because I don’t have to worry about my financial needs,” he said. “I can just focus on academics and baseball.”

Like Carter, Evans says the program is about more than money. “I really appreciate the mentorship component,” he said. “You can learn so much about how to be successful at work and what it takes to move up the ranks. It’s not just about school.”

Taylor said that despite completing an early college program while in high school, and earning her associate’s degree, she was uncertain how she would afford the expense of a university.

“I first learned about FOSSI through Southern’s Top Jags program (a recruiting/support program for high achieving students), but I wasn’t sure about applying,” she said. “I’m so happy I did because the scholarship really helped me. When I got the call, I was driving so my mom answered my phone, and when she heard that I had gotten a scholarship, she just started screaming. I had to pull the car over!”

All three recipients say high school students interested in STEM shouldn’t hesitate to apply for a FOSSI scholarship.

“It’s a very smooth process,” said Evans. “The program is so well run, and everyone is so welcoming.”

“Apply,” says Taylor. “You never know what can happen, and you may just be selected.”

Click here to read about other initiatives by Team Sasol in the US.

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