Assuring STEM Credential Expansion through Nurturing Diversity (ASCEND)
The Assuring Stem Credential Expansion through Nurturing Diversity (ASCEND) project is increasing the number of students earning undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with special emphasis on retaining and graduating women and minorities. The university has been successful at enrolling students into STEM disciplines but attrition rates are high. ASCEND is addressing this loss of talent through coordinated, mutually reinforcing activities that transform the vulnerable first-year STEM experience. The intellectual merits of ASCEND include the team's approach to developing and utilizing a dynamic model (one that incorporates national best practices for recruiting and retaining underrepresented STEM students) and a careful and thorough evaluation of its impact. In concert with this, ASCEND is enabling a cadre of highly-committed faculty, advisors, and top administrators to execute four strategies: create an ASCEND Learning Community for STEM freshman; increase the quality and relevance of STEM teaching through a Community of Practice; strengthen STEM support units and Learning Centers and foster collaboration; and build institutional capacity to capture, track, and report on the academic trajectories of STEM students. ASCEND's broader impacts include improved retention and graduation rates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for women and minorities. These graduate scientists and engineers are lending their perspectives and talents to the local and national STEM workforce. The ASCEND model also is informing efforts at other comparable institutions, and is having an impact by increasing diversity and gender equity in STEM.