SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - The University of Illinois Springfield received a grant aimed at developing programs to support minority students in STEM fields.

Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Lucia Vazquez said the $100,000 grant will allow the university to implement new teaching strategies, like building more one-on-one relationships.

"Diversity is very important, in terms of our ideas and thoughts, as far as prospective," Vazquez said. "The idea here is, by participating in research, they will gain a variety of skills with not only research, but communications."

According to Vazquez, minorities do face barriers in STEM.

"Of the number of students that enter the STEM fields, we end up losing about 63 percent of them," Vazquez said.

Vazquez said the barriers are something she knows all too well.

"I am initially from Mexico. I was born and raised in Mexico City, and I did my graduate work at Cornell University," Vazquez said. "I faced many challenges when I was a grad student, and I succeeded because I had great mentors."

Now, Vazquez wants to pay that forward and be a great mentor to all students. She's been a professor at UIS for nearly 20 years and she said she wants to see all students reach their goals. Take a student like Beatriz Acosta.

"I'm a biology major doing undergrad," Acosta said. "It's my third year."

Acosta said she thinks UIS is inclusive to everyone, but does recognize there are some disadvantages for minorities.

"I do have friends who think they have a great disadvantage because they don't speak English very well," Acosta said. "They say they wish they had a reduced course load so they could pay more attention to the topics they need."

The grant was provided by the National Science Foundation and will be used over the span of five years.