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Increasing the Persistence of Black Women in STEM (WiSTEM) by Implementing and Sustaining a Successful Cohort Model for First-Year Undergraduate Women at an HBCU

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division (WIED) Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering Division (WIED)

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Paper Authors

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Monica Stephens Spelman College


Tiffany Renee Oliver Spelman College

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Celebrated for her TedxTalk - Creating diverse and equitable initiatives in data science, Tiffany Oliver is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Biology Department at Spelman College (Atlanta, GA). Dr. Oliver is a Carnegie and Rockefeller Distinguished Research Scholar and received her Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology from Emory University. Her research, funded by the Department of Defense, aims to understand how near infrared light can be used to heal wounds. Outside of conducting research, Dr. Oliver is passionate about increasing diversity in STEM. She currently directs several undergraduate research programs which provide collegiate black women with the training and expertise needed to acquire jobs in the field of data science. Her passion resides in mentoring and sustaining minority students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), by studying and evaluating the best practices for people of color who are interested in pursuing careers in research and medicine.

Dr. Oliver presents nationally and internationally to student groups, major scientific societies, faculty other interest groups on the experiences of minority students in STEM disciplines and how to increase their retention in the sciences. Her goal is to change the narrative around ethnic minority students in STEM disciplines by improving their scientific experiences.

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Pamela M Leggett-Robinson PLR Consulting

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Pamela Leggett-Robinson is the CEO and Executive Director for PLR Consulting in Atlanta, GA. PLR Consulting is a boutique Program Development, Management, and Evaluation firm that works with organizations and institutions that seeks to address multi-faceted obstacles confronting both historically and presently marginalized groups in STEM environments as well as optimize current STEM programs through management and evaluation. Dr. Leggett-Robinson has more than 15 years of higher education experience which includes STEM academic and student success/support programming, strategic planning, data analytics, and program evaluation. As a PI, she has garnered funds in excess of $3 million dollars from both NIH and NSF for broadening participation in STEM Undergraduate Education and as an Evaluator has worked on large projects with NSF (Big Data, BioGraph), Google CS-ER, and DOD STEM Student Success. Her distinguished record of STEM programmatic success (at HBCUs and PWIs) is well documented in publications and presentations. Dr. Leggett-Robinson’s latest publications, ”Demystifying Promotion & Tenure: A resource for Black Women” and “Overcoming Barriers for Women of Color in STEM” are resources to assist Black women along their STEM journey. She currently distributes a bi-monthly Overcoming Barriers Newsletter to Women of Color STEM faculty. Dr. Leggett-Robinson holds a Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from Georgia State University and is a Certified Associate of Project Management.

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Despite initiatives, policies, and procedures to increase the representation of Black women in STEM, they still remain largely underrepresented, especially in mathematics, computer science, and engineering. This study describes the long-term success of the Women in STEM (WiSTEM) Program, a pre-freshman summer bridge and academic-year experience for incoming first-year students majoring in STEM disciplines. The program has had twelve cohorts over the last fifteen years and has served over 235 women. Ninety percent of WiSTEM participants graduate from college and more than seventy percent obtain their degree in a STEM discipline. This represents a marked increase from the national and College STEM retention rates of 43 and 45 percent, respectively. Many of these students have received or are pursuing advanced degrees in STEM. Our motivation for creating WiSTEM is the observation that Black women are underrepresented in STEM for a variety of reasons that include (1) anxiety pertaining to mathematics and computing (2) a lack of exposure to STEM disciplines and tangential careers (3) a lack of exposure to culturally responsive pedagogy, and (4) a lack of communities of support.

Stephens, M., & Oliver, T. R., & Leggett-Robinson, P. M. (2023, June), Increasing the Persistence of Black Women in STEM (WiSTEM) by Implementing and Sustaining a Successful Cohort Model for First-Year Undergraduate Women at an HBCU Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43950

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