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Work in Progress: Increasing Interest in STEM and Improving Retention for At-Risk Students - A Two-Year Study

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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

First-Year Programs: Sunday 5-Minute Work-in-Progress Postcard Session

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Melissa Danforth California State University, Bakersfield

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Melissa Danforth is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at CSUB. Dr. Danforth is the PI for a NSF Federal Cyber Service grant (NSF-DUE1241636) to create models for information assurance education and outreach. Dr. Danforth is the Project Director for a U.S. Department of Education grant (P031S100081) to create engineering pathways for students in the CSUB service area. She is also the co-PI for an NSF IUSE grant for STEM retention (NSF-DUE 1430398) and the co-PD for multiple U.S. Department of Education grants related to engineering education and outreach. Her research interests are focused on network and system security, particularly with respects to protecting mission-critical resources and services. She is also conducting research in applying biological concepts to cybersecurity, such as artificial immune systems.

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Charles Lam California State University, Bakersfield

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Dr. Charles C.Y. Lam is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics. Dr. Lam received his Ph.D. in Combinatorics and Optimization from the University of Waterloo. His research areas are in cryptography, digital watermarking, and combinatorics. He has extensive experience in curriculum assessment, undergraduate curriculum development, and student mentoring.

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For the past two summers, California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) has conducted a summer research program for at-risk students as part of its NSF IUSE grant activities. The program is intended to introduce students to real-world applications of STEM majors and encourage them to persist in their degree programs. Students are identified as at-risk primarily from their mathematical placement at the remedial and pre-calculus levels. While these students may be either freshmen or sophomores by university units, they are considered first year students from the perspective of their STEM majors since they are not calculus-ready. The goal of the program is to increase retention and improve persistence, particularly with respects to completing the mathematics sequence appropriate for their STEM major. Program participants completed pre-surveys and post-surveys to determine the effect of the program on their attitudes towards STEM. Additionally, retention in the STEM major, progress in the mathematics sequence, and overall academic progress has been tracked for program participants. The survey results for both years show this program has had a positive impact on participants’ attitudes towards STEM majors, STEM careers, and STEM research. The one-year retention rate of the first cohort is much higher than the baseline STEM retention rate at the start of the IUSE grant. The first cohort is also making satisfactory progress on completion of the calculus sequence for their STEM majors and their academic progress mirrors that of the overall CSUB population.

Danforth, M., & Lam, C. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Increasing Interest in STEM and Improving Retention for At-Risk Students - A Two-Year Study Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29165

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