Support for Undergraduates at the Community College Engaged in STEM Studies
Suffolk Community College in New York is addressing the national need for graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates through the Support for Undergraduates at Community College Engaged in STEM Studies (SUCCESS) project. SUCCESS will serve a region containing a high density of high-technology research and industry institutions as well as some of the largest communities of individuals underrepresented in STEM in the state. The project will engage minority and non-traditional students in STEM and strengthen the pipeline from high school to baccalaureate degree-granting institutions by bolstering recruitment, retention, graduation, and transfer to meet local and national STEM workforce needs. Advances in understanding about the factors and activities associated with retention, transfer, academic and career pathways, and degree attainment will be disseminated through podcasts, project faculty, and student presentations at local, regional, national and international meetings of STEM-based professional organizations. Results will be published by the National Center for Civic Engagement and Responsibility in their SENCER Model Series as a venue to share SUCCESS results with a broader audience. A comprehensive evaluation is being developed to continuously enhance the project activities and provide opportunities for researching and evaluating the success of the project and its deliverables, as well as the sharing of best practices.
SUCCESS is designed to expand the number of low-income, academically-talented STEM students who graduate, transfer, or enter the STEM workforce by leveraging existing resources and developing new support and activities. The number of annual awards will begin with 35 in the first year and culminate at 45 by the end of the project, resulting in 206 awards. More than 86% of scholarship recipients will be retained, 48% will graduate, and 50% will transfer, exceeding non-participating STEM students who are eligible counterparts by 20%, 26%, and 18%, respectively. The program will be highly selective as only about 8% of eligible students will receive awards. Selection will employ successful procedures including letters of recommendation from STEM faculty and a personal essay. In addition to scholarships, awardees will benefit from 1) authentic research, presentation, and publication opportunities, 2) professional advising, mentoring, tutoring, and community-building through the use of technology; 3) an online research methods course; and 4) improved retention through community-building among scholarship students. SUCCESS will leverage prior and existing STEM initiatives to provide additional inter-programmatic benefits. Prior project findings mirror the science education literature by indicating that students learn best in authentic settings, excel in communities with support, and show interest in emerging STEM fields and the environment. Many studies highlight the importance of authentic student research and presentation opportunities, relevant technology, and additional supports beyond scholarships, including mentoring and tutoring. Thus, the pedagogic centerpiece of the program is an active learning methodology that includes authentic research internship experiences at national laboratories including Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and on campus.