Scholars in Math and Science: A Program to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Students in the Biological Sciences
Muhlenberg College has received an NSF Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (NSF S-STEM) award for a project entitled The Scholars in Math and Science (SIMS) program. SIMS will target academically talented and economically disadvantaged students who enter college seeking a major within the biological sciences. Two cohorts of 8 students each will be recruited: the first cohort will receive scholarships of $9,500/year for 4 years, and the second will receive scholarships of $9,500/year for 3 years. The proposal is building upon successful program elements of a previous STEM grant that included enhanced recruitment and academic support. Through this program, Muhlenberg College will promote a robust and diverse STEM workforce.
Program elements new to this project are being designed to develop academic and science skills, create a learning community that lasts from freshman to senior year, and develop student leadership through activities on campus and in public outreach. The project will improve student support services including forming learning communities, providing special classes and sections to get students past hurdle classes, instituting peer-led learning, and providing long-term mentors. SIMS will increase the leadership roles of scholars, improving their science process skills, encouraging participation in research, and improving recruitment and financial support for low income and otherwise underrepresented groups. SIMS assessment and evaluation will be comprehensive and ongoing and include both quantitative and qualitative instruments and measures from the literature. The project external evaluator is using both formative and summative evaluations to assess student mathematics readiness, skills development, ability to understand and communicate key principles in biology, progress to degree, and graduation rates. Particular emphasis will be placed on the surveys to assess and continually improve the elements of the program that are focused on student success. The data will inform our understanding of effective practices that support the persistence to graduation of students underrepresented in STEM disciplines.