STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

On Becoming Scientists in the Big Bang Generation: Strategies for Success

SETGO is a 2-/4-year partnership which aims to foster academic success across all STEM fields, and to facilitate students’ transition from Associate programs at Owens Community College to Baccalaureate degree programs at Bowling Green State University. Primary program components are threefold: Owens Ready Bridge (ORB) - a non-residential summer bridge program designed to mitigate poor academic preparation and address issues related to transitioning to college. SETGO Summer Research (SSR) - authentic research work in a 10-week summer program provides the peak experiences that carry students through the challenges of meeting academic standards. Art of Science Community (ASC) - parallel monthly meetings centered on 'Building a Better Environment' are a point of convergence for diverse scientific interests, highlight the value of interdisciplinary research, and provide opportunity for cascading mentor relationships.

All three components have been successfully implemented. The ASC umbrella activity unifies faculty and student participants from OCC/BGSU as well as the general public with total unduplicated head counts of 518 thus far. Fifty-five percent of STEM faculty in BGSU’s College of Arts & Sciences and College of Technology participate as SETGO mentors. While participation is still skewed towards the Life Sciences, student interest is driving faculty participation and the physical sciences now contribute 30% of SSR researchers. Recruitment into the ORB increased from 43% in year 1, to 61% of target in years 2 and 3, but recruiting direct from high school students in their “senior summer” remains a challenge for the summer bridge program.

We previously showed a measurable impact of program mentoring on student attitude change (specifically, enhanced student confidence in their ability to master academic content, in their decision to complete a degree in STEM, and in their identification with the institution). These early indicators are translating in year 4 into sustained increases in retention, performance, and graduation. The one-year retention rate of BG freshman in STEM disciplines was 78.8% immediately prior to SETGO. Compared to control groups (matched for age, sex, ethnicity, ACT, and major) SETGO participants have a higher retention rate, lowered rate of switching to non-STEM areas, better performance as judged by cumulative GPA, and a higher graduation rate than comparison students. There are also notable indirect effects on STEM recruitment, retention, graduation, and transfer to BGSU. In particular, 6-Yr graduation rates in STEM have risen from 44 to 62% over the course of this project.

Qualitative analyses have identified several successful practices to be sustained and implemented community-wide. The Art of Science Community is recognized as (i) creating an interdisciplinary culture among STEM students, and (ii) by the administration as a sustainable element for inclusion in planned modifications of the undergraduate experience. Likewise, structured SSR activities (e.g. weekly group meetings, lab tours) and incorporation of students in authentic research teams create a learning community acknowledged as essential for maintaining both positive affect and academic success in the sciences.

Lead Author

Poster Information

  • ID: TF-4-21
  • Disciplinary Focus: Science