STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects


Getting students involved in research very early in their academic experience results in increased retention and better academic performance.

The Alma College PRISM project (Positive Routes Into Science and Mathematics) is a program that focuses on increasing the number of STEM graduates through a positive recruitment and retention program that creates a STEM learning community. It engages students through a focus on early involvement with undergraduate research and an enhanced introductory STEM curriculum. The PRISM program is funded by an NSF-STEP (Science Talent Expansion Program) grant. The core of the PRISM plan is a comprehensive suite of activities spanning the STEM student’s first year at Alma College. It begins with a summer research oriented experience before the student arrives on campus, moves through a series of courses, seminars, and community building activities, and culminates with a summer research experience. Select students move on to become student research associates and peer mentors in their later years. STEM students are recruited to Alma through outreach to area high schools and recruitment at science fairs, Alma’s Math, Science and Technology Day, and Alma’s Scholars Summit Day.

The number of FYS students interested in the sciences is now 220 or 56% of the first-year class up from 179 (45% of the first year class) in Fall of 2009. The number of declared science majors has increased from 175 (12.6% of total enrollment) in 2008 to 244 in 2011 (17.2% of total enrollment). Students participating in our ASPIRE and Summer Research Programs were retained at a higher rate from their first to second year and had higher GPAs at Alma in spite of having the same academic credentials as the science students who did not participate in the summer activity. Beyond the statistical benefits, the program clearly has played a major role in improving the science culture at Alma, rejuvenating faculty interest in student-faculty research, and producing students qualified for national research and internship opportunities.

Lead Author

  • John Davis


Name Organization
David Clark Alma College
Myles McNally Alma College

Institution Information

  • Name: Alma College
  • State: MI

Poster Information

  • ID: UR-005
  • Disciplinary Focus: All STEM
  • Award Number: 0856613
  • Project Year 4