STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

The Central Texas 2-STEP: 1) Attraction TO STEM; 2) Retention & Graduation IN STEM

The Central Texas 2-STEP project, a partnership involving Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University-Central Texas (comprehensive institutions) and Temple College (a community college), is increasing STEM graduation rates through targeted recruitment of three distinct audiences. The first audience is high school juniors and seniors studying in residence at The Texas Bioscience Institute’s (TBI) “Middle College” (a unit of Temple College). Students enroll in a STEM-Intensive college curriculum that also satisfies high school graduation requirements. Students are counseled and encouraged to enroll in sufficient transferable STEM courses such that they receive a STEM-Intensive Associate Degree along with their high school diploma. Upon graduation they are encouraged to pursue a STEM bachelor’s degree. The second targeted audience is traditional community college students enrolled at the TBI in the AAS program in Biotechnology. Students are encouraged to enroll in additional STEM courses that are transferable to STEM BS programs. The third targeted audience is recent and soon-to-be veterans from the armed services. This arm of the program capitalizes on significant improvements in the GI Bill to reach veterans and/or their family members who have expressed an interest in STEM careers.

Students participating in The Central Texas 2-STEP program are being supported by a number of measures (“best practices”) shown to increase student interest and persistence in STEM fields. Undergraduate research opportunities, seminars with practicing STEM professionals, meaningful career counseling and peer-to-peer tutoring in STEM “gateway” courses are all project components designed to retain students and to prepare them for careers in STEM. A math-readiness summer experience is also being conducted for promising STEM students who may need math preparation enhancement or review before enrolling in their first STEM major college mathematics course.

Some highlights of the 2012-2013 year of The Central Texas 2-STEP project are:

  • During Summer 2012, forty students from the targeted groups participated in a full-time, 10-week research experience. Thirty-one were “Middle College” students, seven were AAS Biotechnology students (five were military-related) and two were other STEM community college majors. Each student participant was an active member of an investigator-led research team and worked on a single project within the particular team’s research program. Their summer research experience culminated at a Poster Session where each participant presented a professional poster based on their work. The Poster Session was a well-attended event and included family members, other student colleagues and mentors of the participants, regional business, economic development and political leaders and representatives of the electronic and print media. When surveyed at the conclusion of the program, 86% of the students reported that the experience had increased the likelihood that they would pursue a career in Science. The majority of the students strongly agreed that they had gained new knowledge, new skills, a better understanding of research ethics, and skills for communicating with colleagues from other disciplines. The research experience program will be offered again in Summer 2013.

  • Forty rising high school juniors who wished to matriculate at the TBI in Fall 2012 participated in the Math-Readiness Summer 2012 Workshop. The Workshop was a five hour/day, four day/week, four-week experience held from early June to early July. The Workshop is designed to assure that students have the appropriate mathematical preparation to successfully 1) undertake College Algebra or Pre-Calculus and/or 2) perform the mathematical requirements of the first two introductory “gatekeeper” college science courses (i.e., “freshman” Biology and Chemistry) required of beginning students at the TBI. Over 85% of the students displayed a significant post-workshop score increase on the ACCUPLACER standardized exam compared to their pre-workshop performance. Ninety-one percent of the students subsequently earned a “C” or better in their first required college math course. The Math-Readiness Workshop will be offered again in Summer 2013. Given the success of the Summer 2012 Workshop participants, their “word of mouth” feedback to their “rising” high school junior colleagues and the encouragement of high school counselors, an increase in attendance is anticipated for the Summer 2013 Workshop.

  • Twelve seminar (research- and practice-based)/career counseling sessions were presented to the students during the 2012-2013 year. Practicing professionals from a variety of STEM fields made presentations. In addition, alums of the Summer 2012 Research Experience Program spoke to the students about their participation in the Program, their research projects and their overall academic experience in the Program.

  • One hundred and eleven “Middle College” students were enrolled at The Texas Bioscience Institute during the 2012-2013 year. It is anticipated that 84% (42 of 50) of the “2nd year senior Middle College” students will receive a STEM-Intensive Associate’s Degree from Temple College in May 2013, while simultaneously having fulfilled all requirements to receive their high school diplomas. The other eight students will have earned between 48 and 60 credits that are transferable to a STEM BS program. During the first three years of the grant’s activities (2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012), 88 of the 120 (73.3%) “2nd year senior Middle College” students earned a STEM-Intensive Associate degree. Interestingly, in the three years prior to the presence of the grant’s activities, only 30 of the 102 (29.4%) “2nd year senior Middle College students” opted to acquire enough additional elective credits to earn a STEM-Intensive Associate degree.

  • Approximately thirty Biotechnology students (12 in the AAS Biotechnology program and the remainder fulfilling prerequisites for the program) were enrolled at The Texas Bioscience Institute during the 2012-2013 year.

  • During the 2010-2011 year, limited peer-to-peer tutoring was made available in the introductory math and chemistry courses. Results of surveys of the student participants, the student peers and the respective faculty members were overwhelmingly positive. Therefore, the peer-to-peer tutoring was significantly expanded during the 2011-2012 year and is being continued during the 2012-2013 year.

Lead Author

  • John Idoux


Name Organization
Daniel Spencer Temple College

Institution Information

  • Name: Tarleton State University
  • State: TX

Poster Information

  • ID: TF-016
  • Disciplinary Focus: All STEM
  • Award Number: 0855343
  • Project Year 4