Using Early Introduction to Undergraduate Research to Recruit, Retain, and Graduate More STEM Majors
The Bucknell Scholars (BUScholars) program provides financial support for approximately 95 science and mathematics majors to participate in two summers of research, starting the summer before they matriculate at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. BUScholars participate in a summer transition research program, a new STEM-themed living/learning community, special first-year coursework (STEM foundation seminars), and a new interdisciplinary STEM discussion group, all of which help create an environment that encourages student enthusiasm and success in STEM disciplines. A specific goal of the BUScholars program is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups achieving STEM degrees. Retention of students in STEM majors is improved through proactive mentoring and supplemental academic support. Establishing a strong peer support system through the new living/learning community, participation in high quality research opportunities, and dedicated academic and post-program advising greatly increases the likelihood of success for students while at Bucknell and later as they enter STEM careers.
The program intends to increase the number of natural science and mathematics majors at Bucknell by 30% over 5 years. An assessment of the BUScholars program, particularly the perceptions and reactions of the participants, is being combined with results from the two similar STEP projects that incorporate early introduction of summer undergraduate research at Hamilton College in New York and Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia. All participating STEP students are being tracked on a long-term basis, with an emphasis on final academic and career choices, and the results are being shared with the scientific community.