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The Endeavour S-STEM Program: A Multi-College Collaboration to Increase Engagement and Retention in STEM

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Diana G. De La Rosa-Pohl University of Houston

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Diana de la Rosa-Pohl is an Instructional Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Houston (UH). She has developed first-year experience programs for multiple STEM organizations and also teaches project-based hands-on courses for those programs. She currently directs the NSF-supported Endeavour S-STEM program which serves students across three UH STEM colleges. Her research interests include motivation, engagement, and project-based curriculum development.

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Catherine Horn University of Houston

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Dr. Catherine Horn is Moores Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Executive Director of the Institute for Educational Policy Research and Evaluation at UH. She is also the Director for the Center for Research and Advancement of Teacher Education and the UH’s Education Research Center. She has served as an evaluator for other unrelated GAANN projects before. Dr. Horn, who received her Ph.D. from Boston College, focuses on the systemic influences of secondary and postsecondary assessment and related policies on the learning trajectories of students especially for students traditionally underserved by the education and social sectors.

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Background & Program Description The link between student engagement and retention is well-established in the education literature. As a result, many colleges have developed first-year experience programs to engage students in early technical work and to promote community-building. However, many of these student success programs require participation in extracurricular activities, which require time outside of class. Yet time for extracurricular activities is a luxury that many students of low socioeconomic status (SES) cannot afford due to family or work obligations.

The Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides crucial financial support to high-achieving low-SES STEM students. The S-STEM scholarships give students the option to work less or not at all. The intended result is that students regain the time afforded to their more privileged peers, thereby also giving them the opportunity to more effectively engage with their institution, studies, and peers.

The _____ Program is a two-year program that incorporates the S-STEM financial support into a multi-faceted and multi-college program in STEM designed to increase the level of student engagement in school. The scholars, who are recruited from three colleges, take classes together, work on hands-on team projects, attend professional and personal development events, participate in outreach events, and conduct research with faculty mentors. Over the course of the two-year program, four dimensions of student engagement (academic, behavioral, cognitive, and affective) are tracked to determine the appropriateness of using these engagement levels as predictors of success.

Results Two cohorts of 20 students were recruited in the fall of 2017 and in the fall of 2018. The first cohort completed the two-year program in the spring of 2020, and the second cohort began the second year of the program in the fall of 2020. No third cohort was recruited in 2020 due the Covid19 pandemic. The third and fourth cohorts will now enter the program in the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2022 respectively.

Overall, the results of the _____ Program have been positive. The final retention outcome for the first cohort (the only cohort to complete the program thus far) was 85% (17/20). Retention for the second cohort is currently at 100% (20/20). Initial results show that the S-STEM scholars are performing academically as well as their peers who do not share the same risk factors. In addition, the number of completed hours is also on par with their peers. However, the most significant gains were observed in the qualitative data. Students expressed fears and anxieties about the high school to college transition and reported that the guidance provided and the community formed through the _______ Program alleviated many of those negative emotions.

The full paper will show student engagement data obtained over time for the first and second cohorts as well as lessons learned and directions for future work. Also, examples of advising charts created in an engagement data dashboard will show how the quantitative engagement data has been compiled and organized to show early warning signs for current and future cohorts.

De La Rosa-Pohl, D. G., & Horn, C. (2021, July), The Endeavour S-STEM Program: A Multi-College Collaboration to Increase Engagement and Retention in STEM Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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