Bridging the Valley: A STEP Ahead for STEM Majors
This project is a consortium of four Shenandoah Valley higher education institutions: Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, and James Madison University. These institutions are collaborating on a series of activities to attract and retain students in STEM majors on the different campuses. In recent years, each institution has experienced declining enrollments in some or all of its STEM programs. This project is designed to reverse these trends and also to increase the diversity of STEM majors. Six activities are being implemented to increase the enrollment and graduation of STEM majors: i) A summer bridge program for entering students to build their mathematics skills, to introduce the range of possible STEM majors available to students at the participating institutions, and to introduce them to STEM-based problem solving with real world problems; ii) A unique set of coordinated learning communities across the campuses that will focus on STEM themes; iii) Efforts to build on the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, a Shenandoah Valley consortium of government, business, and education institutions, in order to offer STEM-based internships and employment opportunities; iv) A set of STEM faculty development activities given jointly between the four campuses to build faculty awareness of key issues in retaining students in STEM majors and build skills in using effective pedagogy; v) Outreach activities to K-12 teachers and counselors to help build and sustain interest and demand for STEM majors after the end of the project; and vi) Campus-specific activities that will focus on unique STEM issues and programs at each of the four institutions. SRI, International is providing extensive formative and summative assessment of these activities. By the 5th year of the project, these efforts are expected to produce an annual increase of 100 additional STEM degrees and more than 220 additional STEM degrees through the duration of the project. Knowledge gained in this project can be expected to lead to more effective strategies for coordination and articulation among community colleges and 4-year institutions. This knowledge will be of growing value due to the growing number of articulation agreements between 2-year and 4-year institutions.