STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Underrepresented Undergraduates in STEM at Large, Public Research Universities: From Matriculation to Degree Completion

This three-year study examines the matriculation, persistence, and degree attainment of full-time, first-time women, students of color, and low-income undergraduate students in the STEM fields at a consortium of large, public, research universities, which are significant producers of STEM degrees. Quantitative and qualitative methods are used to examine individual factors, institutional factors, and programs that impact the (under)representation of students in a wide variety of math and science based fields. The first two years of the grant focused on conducting research on undergraduate students and STEM intervention programs at a set of ten universities. With the addition of a supplemental grant in the third year of the project, the research efforts have been expanded to a total of sixteen universities, increasing the amount of data available to the project, and allowing for issues of context to be explored more deeply.

The project, is currently in its fourth and final year after being granted a one year, no-cost extension in 2012, and has three distinct components: 1) Longitudinal data on students who began college in 1999 allows for examination of their selection into a STEM field, movement in and out of STEM majors, and postsecondary outcomes; 2) Qualitative data gathered from administrators and directors of STEM intervention programs at sixteen universities focuses on the design and delivery of such programs; and 3) Online surveys of students at sixteen universities aids in the understanding of how choice of major impacts various undergraduate experiences.

Research from the third year of the grant focused on the use of evaluation in STEM intervention programs to increase sustainability, the use of mentoring in recruitment and retention programs, and the use of deficit-based language by administrators of STEM recruitment and retention programs. In addition, research has been conducted on differences in academic and community engagement levels by type of major, gender differences in students’ science identity, racial and ethnic differences in students’ perceptions of departmental climate, the effect of tuition differentials on low-income students’ entrance into engineering, and influences of student’s decision to attend college and to pursue their major. Across these various topics, the research findings continue to highlight important differences by type of STEM major, as well as important differences between and within racial and ethnic groups, particularly by gender.

The research in the fourth year has largely been an extension of the work begun in year three and has resulted in research conducted on differences in students’ perceptions of departmental climate by gender, the identification of pre-college factors and their impact on student’s entrance into and exit out of STEM fields, and the (under)utilization of logic models in the establishment of SIPs. In addition, research continues to be ongoing with respect to use of the student survey data and the qualitative data and is currently focused on investigating changes over time for follow-up participants, persistence for degree completers, as well as further exploration of factors impacting the efficacy and success of SIPs for underrepresented undergraduates in STEM.

Lead Author

  • William Trent

Institution Information

  • Name: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • State: IL

Poster Information

  • ID: WM-013
  • Disciplinary Focus: Type 2 Project
  • Award Number: 0856309
  • Project Year 4