Tracy Miller awarded the SMART Scholarship

August 13, 2019

Tracy Miller

A Department of Defense scholarship for STEM students is doing more than helping Computer Engineering senior Tracy Miller pay for her education, she will also have a job as a civilian employee within the DoD science community after she graduates with her master’s degree.

When Miller decided to return to college to study computer engineering at USF, she discovered the number of credits she accumulated earning two associate degrees disqualified her from federal grants and loans. Fortunately, she was eligible to apply for the Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) program scholarship, which she received for the Fall 2019 through Spring 2020 academic year.

The SMART program allows students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in one of the 21 approved STEM disciplines to receive full tuition and fees, a cash stipend, health insurance and a summer internship. For each academic year the scholarship is awarded, the recipient is required to work one year as a civilian in the Science and Technology (S&T) workforce for the DoD.

“The DoD is sponsoring me for 1.5 years, so I am obligated to work for at least 1.5 years after graduation. I hope I enjoy it and continue working with them until retirement,” Miller said.

According to their website, “The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program was established as a concentrated effort to enhance the Department of Defense workforce with talented, innovative and brilliant scientists, engineers and researchers.” Competition for the scholarships is keen, but the benefits are substantial.

In 2018, the DoD awarded 382 scholarships, 18% of the reviewed applications. Since the start of the program in 2005, USF students have received seven SMART Scholarships, with Miller’s being the eighth.

In addition to paying for her tuition and fees, Miller will receive a $25,000 per year stipend, $1,200 per year for health insurance costs and $1,000 per year for miscellaneous expenses. She will be doing her internship with the DoD for 12 weeks over the summer in Washington D.C. During the internship, she will be paid an additional $1,000 per week.

Miller is currently participating in the Accelerated BS/MS program which allows students to take two master level classes, and count them toward both the master’s and bachelor’s degrees, leading to graduation in a shorter amount of time. She will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December 2020 and can then progress to the graduate program.

“I am still unsure of where I want to go with research. In the fall, I will be assisting a Ph.D. student, Saurabh Hinduja, with his research in affective computing, which I look forward to,” Miller said.

Miller earned her associate degree in pre-engineering in 1990 while working part-time in a dental office. She then went on to earn another associate degree in dental hygiene in 1992. She planned to continue to study engineering while working as a dental hygienist, but was afraid that too much time had passed and she would have forgotten the math, when a chance encounter provided the encouragement she needed.

“I ran into a friend that I studied with in my pre-engineering classes. She graduated from USF with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and motivated me to lose the fear and pursue my dream,” Miller said.