Asee peer logo

Board 127: Implementing National Best Practices to Improve STEM Retention in a Liberal Arts College Setting

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Marc Veletzos Merrimack College

visit author page

MARC J. VELETZOS, Ph.D., P.E. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Merrimack College. He is a licensed Civil Engineer in the State of California and has over twenty years of bridge engineering experience from both an industry and academic perspective.

visit author page


Mary G. Noonan Merrimack College

visit author page

Mary Noonan is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and former Dean of the School of Science and Engineering. She is co-PI of the Foundations for Stem Success program funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant # DUE-1217285. She teaches undergraduate Computer Science courses and serves as department chair . She is currently involved in developing effective retention strategies for computer science and engineering students in the first two years. Her research interests include mobile and web technologies.

visit author page


Maureen Walsh Sakakeeny P.E. Merrimack College Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Ms. Sakakeeny is an experienced civil engineer and higher education administrator. Her engineering expertise spans transportation infrastructure design, construction management, environmental planning, and sustainability consulting. She supports the Dean of Science and Engineering with student recruitment and retention initiatives, including expansion of graduate programs, and first-year student advising and support. Ms. Sakakeeny is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers (Boston Section) and the Society of Women Engineers (Fellow).

visit author page

author page

Cynthia McGowan Merrimack College

Download Paper |


The Foundation for STEM Success (FS2) program is a model for STEM student success that uses a student-centered approach to academic preparation and learning, and creates an integrated institutional network of supports that increases students’ self-efficacy, sense of belonging to their major, and belief in the importance of their contributions to society. These are key factors that affect retention in STEM fields. The FS2 project elements have been piloted at large public institutions, and are being implemented within a smaller Liberal Arts college setting.

The FS2 program is a five year project that focuses on engineering and computer science majors and was designed to improve retention and graduation by implementing strategies that contribute to: academic preparation and self-efficacy, particularly in first year mathematics courses; a sense of belonging to a major and social integration within an academic community, and; a belief that the targeted majors contribute to society. To accomplish these goals the FS2 program is divided into four initiatives to increase first- and second-year retention in engineering and computer science majors: (1) a summer intensive program; (2) a revised gateway course for engineering and CS majors, (3) a peer and faculty mentor/tutoring program, and (4) affinity housing. These four initiatives support students’ adjustment to the challenges and rigors of a high quality academic program.

The FS2 program is currently in the fourth and final academic year and has engaged 470 first year engineering and computer science students. The paper describes the main challenges implementing these retention initiatives in a small college setting and outlines approaches to overcome these challenges. Results from the first three cohorts indicate that the average one year retention rate is 75%, which is an increase from our baseline of 67% and the average two year retention rate is 64%, which is an increase from our baseline of 57%.

Veletzos, M., & Noonan, M. G., & Sakakeeny, M. W., & McGowan, C. (2018, June), Board 127: Implementing National Best Practices to Improve STEM Retention in a Liberal Arts College Setting Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29912

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015