SL-CARE: Student Learning Communities and Research Engagement
This STEP project is engaged in scaling up successful pilot programs in the University of California at Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. The Program is known as Student Learning Communities and Research Engagement (SL-CARE). The STEP project consists of three early interventions: 1) first-year learning communities, 2) first-year laboratory research experiences, and 3) a second-year career exploration and mentoring program. This award is building on 5-year pilots of 1 and 2. Data from the piloted learning communities indicates that this intervention has very high potential for improving retention and graduation of undergraduate students. Hence, learning communities are the main thrust of this STEP project. They are being expanded to include 80 percent of incoming first-year undergraduates in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, thereby doubling participation from 500 to 1,000 students. The second intervention dimension is focused on expanding another successful pilot program to transform traditional introductory laboratories to discovery-based research laboratories. A third intervention component is a new one, focused on guiding STEM majors in their second year of study into exploring possible STEM careers, with active participation by peer, alumni, and professional STEM mentors. Overall, the goal of this STEP project is to improve graduation rates of STEM majors from 24% to more than 50% in 5 years.
The University of California Riverside is the most ethnically-diverse campus in the University of California system, and is consistently ranked in the top ten most diverse Tier 1 research universities in the United States according to the 2011 edition of US News and World Report on Colleges. The majority of the students in this project are from non-white families. The undergraduate ethnicity of the University's students in 2011 was 40% Asian & Asian American, 29% Chicano and Latino, 17% White, 8% African American, 2% International, and 4% unknown. This context clearly informs the project's potential to exercise broader impacts.