Science Partnership for Undergraduate Recruitment, Retention, and Success (SPURRS)
Science Partnership for Undergraduate Recruitment, Retention, and Success (SPURRS) is increasing the quantity, quality, and diversity of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates through recruiting, retaining, and graduating students, especially students from traditionally underserved groups. The goal of SPURRS is to increase over a five year period the number of STEM majors and graduates by 20%. The objectives are to: (1) Recruit at least 50 STEM majors from populations of undecided incoming college students and from populations of high school students with potential who may not have considered themselves college bound, (2) Increase the retention of students entering STEM majors and minors from 32% to 40%, and (3) Increase five and six year STEM degree graduation rates from 19.1 and an estimated 20.2% respectively to 24 and 25% respectively. At Angelo State University, the difference between the overall percentage of students majoring in STEM fields and the overall percentage of STEM degrees awarded is attributed to the low retention of students in STEM majors. Less than 40% of incoming STEM students who are retained at the university remain in a STEM major. Because this attrition occurs during their first year, it is hypothesized that this may be a result of difficulty in, and the lack of preparation for, the introductory course sequences in these majors. The SPURRS initiative is investigating the efficacy of instituting 'First Year Experience' cohorts specific to STEM majors through student participation in a 'Critical Thinking Boot Camp' designed to provide students with the basic training in skills and strategies for succeeding in introductory STEM coursework. The Boot Camp is being followed by a first semester Critical Thinking Seminar, mandatory tutoring for introductory sequence STEM coursework, and a Peer Mentoring program. In addition, students retained through to graduation are participating in career and graduate school preparation. The project is also investigating undergraduate learning in introductory science courses to better understand the driving factors behind successful student transition from high school to college. The SPURRS program is being proactive in its efforts to provide support for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields including a large number of first-generation college students, many of whom are Hispanic. The partnership with San Angelo Independent School District and the Education Service Center Region XV also serves as a model for recruiting and transitioning underserved and underrepresented students into 4-year STEM degrees.