Ann Chester, Ph.D. is the founder and director of Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) a campus/community partnership program initiated in 1994 which reaches out to 9th-12th grade under-represented students across West Virginia and supports them towards college and professional school. The program brings under-represented students and their teachers to multiple university campuses during summers for laboratory and classroom training and enrichment activities, and then provides the infrastructure and support for community-based science club projects mentored by teachers, scientists, health professions students and volunteer community leaders during the school year. A distinctive piece of HSTA is its students’ development of research projects that examine and address health issues faced by their communities. These projects form the core of the HSTA experience and drive the academic learning the program promotes. The projects turn HSTA students into community advocates who address health and social issues at home even as they prepare to move on to college and beyond. HSTA has provided the foundation for a statewide pipeline complete with a college tuition waiver for future health care professionals and scientists prepared to practice in under-served areas. An overwhelming 99% of the 2374 successful HSTA high school graduates attend college, 87% graduate with a 4 year degree or better (91% have graduated from both 2 and 4-year institutions or are still in college), 62% choose health sciences or STEM majors and 84% stay in WV to work.
Trained as a plant ecologist at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, San Diego State University and Duke University, Dr. Chester has taken her love of science and her expertise in engaging communities in partnership with higher education to help others capture their own potential. This has fostered grass-roots change in science education and health literacy in West Virginia. She has done this with the help of many enthusiastic partners and by raising funds of over $2,500,000 per year from federal, state, foundation, business, and local funders. Dr. Chester’s work has been recognized nationally and regionally by the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (2010), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2010,2006), and Crisis Magazine (2006). She has been nominated for the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring by WVU leadership for the past 2 years.