July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
The National Science Foundation awarded funds in 2016 through the DUE in an S-STEM program to investigate a connection between student support networks and success within STEM fields in higher education. A Web of Support characterization model, based upon work with Native American populations, was modified using these ‘network’ predictors of success for discrimination at the collegiate matriculation point. Promising students with low socio-economic status that were successfully screened by the modified admissions process were then interviewed by a committee of academic professionals, and if selected for participation in the Rising Scholars Program, provided with an annual $6,500 four-year scholarship. Students had to agree to follow the program guidelines and provide data to the researchers.
The Rising Scholars Program was designed to be a ‘high touch’ path through the undergraduate academic world that incorporated the known best practices in higher education. These activities included events designed to foster camaraderie and provide opportunities to engage with an expanded professional network. Admitted students were expected to attend an academic boot camp during the summer prior to beginning their freshman year and attend an orientation seminar for incoming students during the fall term. During the summer before their sophomore year, Rising Scholar students enroll in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation to work in a partnering faculty members’ lab assisting their graduate students and post-docs. The sophomore seminar concentrates on communication skills and career selection. Students typically conduct their own research project during the summer before their junior year, and the junior seminar shifts focus toward employability. Students experience an internship prior to their senior year to gain professional time within the workplace. The senior seminar is primarily devoted to helping students receive an offer for an entry-level professional position.
Incoming Rising Scholar students were matched with students receiving both direct engineering admits and exploratory studies admits that had similar background and academic indicators that matched the Rising Scholar’s profile. First year retention for students in engineering and the Rising Scholars program was significantly better than for exploratory studies. Those trends remained in the second year data. Rising Scholars have significantly better GPA moving into their second year compared to both engineers and exploratory studies students. The significance in GPA over engineering students continues into the second year.
The initial data collected from this program supports the operating conjecture that first generation students from low SES backgrounds can be successful in STEM fields within higher education, if they are provided with structure and counselling. Efforts are underway to finish the initial three cohorts of students and find a means to make the overall program sustainable. It seems valuable to maintain a flow of students through the program. Underclass members of the group notably comment on the confidence shown by upperclass members and the importance of having them around as role models. It would be advantageous to transition this program to a multi-university project to demonstrate the robustness of the process for these students.
Stwalley, R. M., & Stwalley, C. S., & Booth-Womack, V. L., & Baldwin, G. L., & Larose, S. (2021, July), Using Enhanced Professional Networks to Increase Overall Student Retention Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37990
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