Finger Lakes Community College Awarded $240K Grant to Explore Expansion of National Science Initiative


Canandaigua, NY—Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) has been awarded a $240,500  grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to plan a 10-fold expansion of the college’s national initiative to teach science through research at two-year institutions.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust will provide the resources for the college to map out the necessary steps to significantly increase the number of institutions involved in the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI).

“We have 47 partner institutions that are using research projects to teach basic principles of science in a way that helps students learn and stay engaged. We have had such success that we’d like to scale that up to 470 community colleges,” said James Hewlett, professor of biology at FLCC and director of CCURI.

“This is an exciting opportunity for FLCC to take our research initiative to a new level. I am proud of the leadership our college faculty have shown. Their work has the potential to transform science education in community colleges across the country,” said FLCC President Barbara Risser.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust grants millions annually for health, education and human service projects. Helmsley’s grantmaking in higher education aims to increase the number and diversity of college graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by improving persistence to graduation. 

"We are very pleased to support Finger Lakes Community College in advancing the success of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative," said Ryan Kelsey, program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Education Program. "Providing as many community college students as possible with a high-quality early research experience for college credit is crucial for us to help aspiring STEM students reach family-sustaining careers in high-demand fields that will help maintain our country's prosperity."

FLCC will work with Redstone Strategy Group, a social sector consulting firm in Colorado, on a five-month study that will explore the need for laboratory equipment, training, additional staff to run a large national program, as well as potential funding sources.

Hewlett began using research to teach science instead of standard lessons and labs in 2007 at FLCC, launching a project that would garner more than $5.5 million in National Science Foundation grants. FLCC used the funds to help community colleges across the country launch research projects involving more than 5,000 students.

Hewlett, along with John Van Niel, professor of environmental conservation, started in 2008 with a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a pilot project, working with six other community colleges to revamp their biology programs to include research.

The success of the pilot led to a $3.35 million grant and the establishment of CCURI in 2011. Since then, CCURI has developed a network of dozens of partner community colleges, including Mesa Community College in Arizona, Ivy Technical Community College in Indiana, Oklahoma City Community College, Moreno Valley College in California and Seminole State College in Florida.

“Nearly half of all college students attend community colleges, so two-year schools play an important role in increasing the numbers of students who study science, technology, engineering and math,” Hewlett said.

Additional grants followed, including $133,000 for a national conference in 2013 and $210,000 to incorporate colleges serving Hispanic students in 2014.

In September 2015, the National Science Foundation’s fund for improving undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics awarded FLCC another $1.5 million to continue its work.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in health, place-based initiatives, and education and human services. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. The Trust's Education Program seeks to advance American economic competitiveness as well as individual social mobility. In K-12, the Trust focuses on ensuring all students graduate high school prepared for college or careers by supporting teacher effectiveness and the adoption and implementation of high academic standards. In higher education, the goal of the Trust’s grantmaking is to increase the number and diversity of college graduates in STEM fields by improving persistence to graduation. For more information, visit                                            

About FLCC

Finger Lakes Community College ( is a State University of New York two-year higher education institution. FLCC’s 250-acre park-like campus is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes in Canandaigua, N.Y. The College offers 54 degree and certificate programs, including environmental conservation, ornamental horticulture, music recording technology, nursing, communications, graphic design and viticulture and wine technology. FLCC’s current enrollment is 6,800 full- and part-time students.

Finger Lakes Community College does not discriminate in its employment and educational processes. View our non-discrimination statement at