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Board # 131 : S-STEM Scholarship Program at UNC Pembroke: a COMPASS for Science Majors

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Maria Soledad Santisteban University of North Carolina at Pembroke

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Dr. Santisteban is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, a position she has held since 2013. She was an Assistant Professor at the same institution from 2007. Dr. Santisteban teaches Microbiology, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology. Dr. Santisteban, a native of Spain, earned her B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of the Basque Country in Spain. She then went to the Université Joseph Fourier in France where she completed her DEA (Diplome d’Études Approfondies, the equivalent of a Masters) and her PhD in Cellular Biology. Under the supervision of Gérald Brugal she worked on the chromatin structure/function relationship using image cytometry methods. For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Santisteban went to Dr. Mitchell Smith’s laboratory in the Microbiology Department at the University of Virginia, working in the field of Yeast Molecular Genetics. She became an Assistant Professor of Research at the same institution and remained there till her appointment at UNC Pembroke. Dr. Santisteban continues to work with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. Her research focuses on the role the histone H2A.Z variant in regulating gene expression and she involves undergraduate students in her research. Dr. Santisteban is the PI in a NSF funded S-STEM program at UNC Pembroke, title COMPASS (Creating Opportunities for Students in Science). The current funding period is 2014-2019. She is also involved in K-12 education through her role as district director of the NC Student Academy of Science and as a facilitator of teacher development workshops for the Moore county schools through an MSP grant. Dr. Santisteban has been very involved with the North Carolina Academy of Science that she joined in 2008, and has served under various roles. She initially served two years as an elected member of the Board. Then she served in the 2011 Annual Meeting Committee. She was vice-president in 2011-2012. In 2013 she organized the 110th North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS) Annual Meeting that was held at UNCP and she was chair of the local arrangements committee. She was president-elect in 2014-2015, and president of the Academy in 2016-2017. She is currently serving as past-president. Dr. Santisteban is a member of the editorial board of the KBM Journal of Biology and the advisory board of the KBM Scientific Publishing, LP. She is a member of the GCAT (Genome Consortium for Active Teaching) and served in the years 2012-2014 as a member of the GCAT advisory board, whose mission was to recruit faculty from minority serving institutions for the synthetic biology NSF funded summer workshops. She has served as a reviewer in four NSF panels (three REUs, one PRFB). She is also a member of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), a collaborative between a growing number (about 100 currently) of primarily undergraduate institutions, and the Biology Department and the McDonnell Genome Institute of Washington University in St. Louis. The goal of the GEP is to provide opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in genomics research.

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Jill E. Thomley Appalachian State University

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Dr. Thomley is a Professor of Statistics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Appalachian State University, a member institution of the University of North Carolina system. She joined the faculty in 2000 after earning her Ph.D. in Decision Sciences (with a focus in statistics) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While at Rensselaer, she was awarded a Founders Award of Excellence and the Del and Ruth Karger Dissertation Prize for her work on multivariate analysis of rank order data. Her previous degrees include an M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Rensselaer (1992) and an A.B. in Psychology from Harvard University (1990). Dr. Thomley has pursued diverse scholarly interests from high school through the present day, which currently center around applications of statistics and the formal scholarship of teaching, learning, and engagement. She frequently consults on statistical design and analysis of scientific research projects, and she has been involved in the formative and summative evaluation of federally-funded STEM education grants since 2002. A particular focus of this work has been computational science, a discipline arising from the intersection of science, mathematics, and computer science, as well as the diffusion and adoption of STEM education innovations. Additional scholarly interests include the history of statistics and representations of mathematics and statistics in popular culture, particularly mathematically talented women. Her co-edited work The Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society (3 volumes) was named a “Best Reference 2011” by the editors of the well-respected Library Journal. She is also the proud co-creator of the Girl Scout Women in Mathematics Merit Badge program, which introduces middle school girls to the beautiful diversity of mathematics and women who work in the discipline, as well as the opportunities that exist today for girls and women who want to pursue careers in mathematics.

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Rebecca Bullard-Dillard

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Dr. Rebecca Bullard Dillard is the current Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP), having been recruited in 2013. Dr. Bullard-Dillard earned her B.S. degree in Biochemistry at North Carolina State University in 1990, then her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina Department of Chemistry in 1996. Dr. Bullard-Dillard, a protein biochemist, previously served as the biology department chair, then in increasing levels of responsibility in research administration, at Claflin University from 1999 – 2013.
In 2007, she helped formed a working group whose purpose was to bring alternative energy research and infrastructure to South Carolina. Collaborative efforts with several energy sector private industry partners were established as well as working groups with city, state and federal agencies. These projects resulted in a patent in bioenergy (US Patent: US20146657327). Now, in her role as chief research officer, Dr. Bullard-Dillard has brought that resource network to the task of research infrastructure building for UNCP.
Dr. Bullard-Dillard has been recognized through her Outstanding Alumni Award from North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, her South Carolina Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Awareness and her South Carolina Independent Colleges and University’s Excellence in Teaching Award among others. She is deeply committed to her work in education and research to assure that the United States’ scientific community continues to lead the world in solving the complex problems that challenge our future.

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Creating Opportunities for Students in Science (COMPASS) Scholarship Program at UNC Pembroke (UNCP) – an S-STEM National Science Foundation award – was designed to improve STEM retention at UNC Pembroke and to contribute to the national need for more STEM professionals from diverse backgrounds. At UNCP, some challenges to recruitment and retention in STEM disciplines that have been cited by students include: poor preparation, being intimidated by difficult material, lack of understanding of career opportunities in STEM, and financial need. The COMPASS program is contributing to alleviate barriers and improve STEM experiences for talented Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Science, and Chemistry undergraduates with demonstrated financial need, via a combination of financial support, research experiences, internships, professional development, tutoring, and mentoring. These four majors make up most of the STEM undergraduates (about 83%) at UNCP. Therefore, concentrating in these disciplines makes the program more cohesive, with virtually all activities being of interest to all students. It is also a more effective way for Biology and Chemistry faculty to mentor the students.

The COMPASS program is currently funding two cohorts of nine students and a third of 10 students. Financial support is provided from sophomore year through graduation. The rationale for this choice is that attrition is most acute from freshman to sophomore year (on average 70% of UNCP STEM freshmen return as sophomores). Providing this incentive serves as a powerful motivation and becomes a retention tool. The model of three cohorts spaced one year apart lends itself to peer mentoring of students in each entering cohort by those in the previous cohort(s). Demographically, 75% of COMPASS scholars are from underrepresented minorities (URM) versus a college-wide rate of 54%. The highest percentage is Native American (35.8 % vs. 17%), followed by African American (28.5 % vs. 32%), Hispanic (7% vs. 1.5%), and Pacific Islander (3.5% vs. 2%). Scholars reported strong benefits from engaging in program activities. They specifically valued the motivation to keep up their work and grades in order to stay in target for graduation, professional development provided by site visits to academic and industry settings, the financial support that the scholarship provides, and emotional support from mentors and the cohort system, which has become more cohesive after the addition of a student lounge where scholars come together to study and socialize. Some challenges remain and formative assessments based on a strong external review have been used to improve program activities on a year-to-year basis. The implementation and management of the first two and half years of the program will be presented.

Santisteban, M. S., & Thomley, J. E., & Bullard-Dillard, R. (2017, June), Board # 131 : S-STEM Scholarship Program at UNC Pembroke: a COMPASS for Science Majors Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27733

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