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Foundations for STEM Success: Implementing National Best Practices in a Liberal Arts College Setting

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session II

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Mary G. Noonan Merrimack College

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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 has served in many administrative roles. 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.

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Marc Veletzos Merrimack College

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Cynthia Baker McGowan Merrimack College


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

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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).

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The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has indicated that the US Higher Education system needs to produce more graduates in STEM fields to maintain a competitive position in the global economy. Increasing retention in STEM fields has been identified as an efficient approach to achieve these objectives. 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 Year 2 and has engaged a total of 215 first year engineering and computer science students. Preliminary results indicate that first year retention is 71% for gateway course participants, 83% for summer bridge participants and 87% for affinity housing participants. This is an improvement over the baseline first year retention of 67%.

Noonan, M. G., & Veletzos, M., & McGowan, C. B., & Sakakeeny, M. W. (2016, June), Foundations for STEM Success: Implementing National Best Practices in a Liberal Arts College Setting Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26951

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