skip to main content

Title: Engaging STEM Transformational Experiences for Early Momentum (ESTEEM)
Need/Motivation (e.g., goals, gaps in knowledge) The ESTEEM implemented a STEM building capacity project through students’ early access to a sustainable and innovative STEM Stepping Stones, called Micro-Internships (MI). The goal is to reap key benefits of a full-length internship and undergraduate research experiences in an abbreviated format, including access, success, degree completion, transfer, and recruiting and retaining more Latinx and underrepresented students into the STEM workforce. The MIs are designed with the goals to provide opportunities for students at a community college and HSI, with authentic STEM research and applied learning experiences (ALE), support for appropriate STEM pathway/career, preparation and confidence to succeed in STEM and engage in summer long REUs, and with improved outcomes. The MI projects are accessible early to more students and build momentum to better overcome critical obstacles to success. The MIs are shorter, flexibly scheduled throughout the year, easily accessible, and participation in multiple MI is encouraged. ESTEEM also establishes a sustainable and collaborative model, working with partners from BSCS Science Education, for MI’s mentor, training, compliance, and building capacity, with shared values and practices to maximize the improvement of student outcomes. New Knowledge (e.g., hypothesis, research questions) Research indicates that REU/internship experiences can be particularly powerful more » for students from Latinx and underrepresented groups in STEM. However, those experiences are difficult to access for many HSI-community college students (85% of our students hold off-campus jobs), and lack of confidence is a barrier for a majority of our students. The gap between those who can and those who cannot is the “internship access gap.” This project is at a central California Community College (CCC) and HSI, the only affordable post-secondary option in a region serving a historically underrepresented population in STEM, including 75% Hispanic, and 87% have not completed college. MI is designed to reduce inequalities inherent in the internship paradigm by providing access to professional and research skills for those underserved students. The MI has been designed to reduce barriers by offering: shorter duration (25 contact hours); flexible timing (one week to once a week over many weeks); open access/large group; and proximal location (on-campus). MI mentors participate in week-long summer workshops and ongoing monthly community of practice with the goal of co-constructing a shared vision, engaging in conversations about pedagogy and learning, and sustaining the MI program going forward. Approach (e.g., objectives/specific aims, research methodologies, and analysis) Research Question and Methodology: We want to know: How does participation in a micro-internship affect students’ interest and confidence to pursue STEM? We used a mixed-methods design triangulating quantitative Likert-style survey data with interpretive coding of open-responses to reveal themes in students’ motivations, attitudes toward STEM, and confidence. Participants: The study sampled students enrolled either part-time or full-time at the community college. Although each MI was classified within STEM, they were open to any interested student in any major. Demographically, participants self-identified as 70% Hispanic/Latinx, 13% Mixed-Race, and 42 female. Instrument: Student surveys were developed from two previously validated instruments that examine the impact of the MI intervention on student interest in STEM careers and pursuing internships/REUs. Also, the pre- and post (every e months to assess longitudinal outcomes) -surveys included relevant open response prompts. The surveys collected students’ demographics; interest, confidence, and motivation in pursuing a career in STEM; perceived obstacles; and past experiences with internships and MIs. 171 students responded to the pre-survey at the time of submission. Outcomes (e.g., preliminary findings, accomplishments to date) Because we just finished year 1, we lack at this time longitudinal data to reveal if student confidence is maintained over time and whether or not students are more likely to (i) enroll in more internships, (ii) transfer to a four-year university, or (iii) shorten the time it takes for degree attainment. For short term outcomes, students significantly Increased their confidence to continue pursuing opportunities to develop within the STEM pipeline, including full-length internships, completing STEM degrees, and applying for jobs in STEM. For example, using a 2-tailed t-test we compared means before and after the MI experience. 15 out of 16 questions that showed improvement in scores were related to student confidence to pursue STEM or perceived enjoyment of a STEM career. Finding from the free-response questions, showed that the majority of students reported enrolling in the MI to gain knowledge and experience. After the MI, 66% of students reported having gained valuable knowledge and experience, and 35% of students spoke about gaining confidence and/or momentum to pursue STEM as a career. Broader Impacts (e.g., the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM; development of a diverse STEM workforce, enhanced infrastructure for research and education) The ESTEEM project has the potential for a transformational impact on STEM undergraduate education’s access and success for underrepresented and Latinx community college students, as well as for STEM capacity building at Hartnell College, a CCC and HSI, for students, faculty, professionals, and processes that foster research in STEM and education. Through sharing and transfer abilities of the ESTEEM model to similar institutions, the project has the potential to change the way students are served at an early and critical stage of their higher education experience at CCC, where one in every five community college student in the nation attends a CCC, over 67% of CCC students identify themselves with ethnic backgrounds that are not White, and 40 to 50% of University of California and California State University graduates in STEM started at a CCC, thus making it a key leverage point for recruiting and retaining a more diverse STEM workforce. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
National Science Foundation -  Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program Principal Investigator (PI) Meeting, November 2019.
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Broadening participation in engineering among underrepresented minority students remains a big challenge for institutions of higher education. Since a large majority of underrepresented students attend community colleges, engineering transfer programs at these community colleges can play an important role in addressing this challenge. However, for most community college engineering programs, developing strategies and programs to increase the number and diversity of students successfully pursuing careers in engineering is especially challenging due to limited expertise, shrinking resources, and continuing budget crises. This paper is a description of how a small engineering transfer program at a Hispanic-Serving community college in California developedmore »effective partnerships with high schools, other institutions of higher education, and industry partners in order to create opportunities for underrepresented community college students to excel in engineering. Developed through these partnerships are programs for high school students, current community college students, and community college engineering faculty. Programs for high school students include a) the Summer Engineering Institute – a two-week residential summer camp for sophomore and junior high school students, and b) the STEM Institute – a three-week program for high school freshmen to explore STEM fields. Academic and support programs for college students include: a) Math Jam – a one-week intensive math placement test review and preparation program; b) a scholarship and mentoring program academically talented and financially needy STEM students; c) a two-week introduction to research program held during the winter break to prepare students for research internships; d) a ten-week summer research internship program; e) Physics Jam – an intensive program to prepare students for success in Physics; f) Embedded Peer Instruction Cohort – a modified Supplemental Instruction program for STEM courses; g) STEM Speaker Series – a weekly presentation by professionals talking about their career and educational paths. Programs for community college STEM faculty and transfer programs include: a) Summer Engineering Teaching Institute – a two-day teaching workshop for community college STEM faculty; b) Joint Engineering Program – a consortium of 28 community college engineering programs all over California to align curriculum, improve teaching effectiveness, improve the engineering transfer process, and strengthen community college engineering transfer programs; c) Creating Alternative Learning Strategies for Transfer Engineering Programs – a collaborative program that aims to increase access to engineering courses for community college students through online instruction and alternative classroom models; and d) California Lower-Division Engineering Articulation Workshop – to align the engineering curriculum. In addition to describing the development and implementation of these programs, the paper will also provide details on how they have contributed to increasing the interest, facilitating the entry, improving the retention and enhancing the success of underrepresented minority students in engineering, as well as contributing to the strengthening of the community college engineering education pipeline.« less
  2. With support from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education, this five-year project led by a two-year HSI seeks to provide underrepresented students with mentored work experiences in computer information systems. Students will have access to on-campus work experiences and internships in businesses and industries. It is anticipated that some examples of potential student projects include mobile application development, cybersecurity, and computer support. It is expected that these experiences will increase undergraduate student interest, persistence, and success in computer information systems, as well as in STEM more broadly. To ensure that they are well-prepared for and gain the mostmore »from their work experiences, students will receive training on employability skills such as communication, teamwork, and project management. In addition, during their work experiences, students will be mentored by faculty, industry professionals, and peers. To strengthen the capacity of faculty to serve all students, including Hispanic students, the project will provide faculty with professional development focused on equity mindset. This framework to provide mentored work experiences will be developed and piloted at Phoenix College, in the computer information technology department and eventually expanded to other STEM fields at the institution. Following this, the project also intends to expand this framework four other two-year HSIs in the region. Through this work, the project aims to develop a replicable model for how two-year institutions can develop work experiences that foster increased student graduation and entry into STEM career pathways. This project, which is currently in its first year, seeks to examine how a curriculum that integrates cross-sector partnerships to provide work experiences can enhance STEM learning and retention. Using mixed methods and grounded theory, the project will expand knowledge about: (1) the impact of cross-sector partnerships that support work-focused experiential teaching and learning; (2) systematic ways to maintain and better use cross-sector partnerships; and (3) the degree to which a model of work-focused learning experiences can be adopted at other two-year HSIs and by other STEM fields. Baseline data about Hispanic serving identity at the pilot institution has been collected and assessed at the institutional, departmental, and for different educator roles including faculty, support staff, and administrative leaders to produce inputs towards developing a detailed plan of action. Early results from baseline data, visualizations, and planning responses will be reported in the submission. Expected long term results of the project include: development of sustainable mechanisms to foster cross-sector partnerships; increased student retention and workforce readiness; and measurable successes for STEM students, particularly Hispanic students, at two-year HSIs.« less
  3. Research has shown that student achievement is influenced by their access to, or possession of, various forms of capital. These forms of capital include financial capital, academic capital (prior academic preparation and access to academic support services), cultural capital (the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors related to education which students are exposed to by members of their family or community), and social capital (the resources students have access to as a result of being members of groups or networks). For community college students, many with high financial need and the first in their families to go to college (especially those frommore »underrepresented minority groups), developing programs to increase access to these various forms of capital is critical to their success. This paper describes how a small federally designated Hispanic-serving community college has developed a scholarship program for financially needy community college students intending to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. Developed through a National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grant, the program involves a collaboration among STEM faculty, college staff, administrators, student organizations, and partners in industry, four-year institutions, local high schools, and professional organizations. In addition to providing financial support through the scholarships, student access to academic capital is increased through an intensive math review program, tutoring, study groups, supplemental instruction, and research internship opportunities. Access to cultural and social capital is increased by providing scholars with faculty mentors; engaging students with STEM faculty, university researchers, and industry professionals through field trips, summer internships, professional organizations, and student clubs; supporting student and faculty participation at professional conferences, and providing opportunities for students and their families to interact with faculty and staff. The paper details the development of the program, and its impact over the last five years on enhancing the success of STEM students as determined from data on student participation in various program activities, student attitudinal and self-efficacy surveys, and academic performance including persistence, retention, transfer and graduation.« less
  4. According to the National Science Foundation, 50% of Black engineering students who have received a bachelor’s and master’s degree attended a community college at some point during their academic career. However, while research highlights the importance of supporting underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities (URMs) in STEM disciplines, there is a dearth of literature focusing on URMs in community colleges who pursue engineering and other science/math-based majors. Further, Black undergraduates in community colleges are often homogenized by area of study, with little regard for their specific major/discipline. Similarly, while engineering education research has begun to focus on the population of communitymore »college students, less attention has been paid to unpacking the experiences of racial subgroups of community college attendees. The engineering student transfer process has specific aspects related to it being a selective and challenging discipline (e.g., limited enrollment policies, engineering culture shock) that warrants a closer investigation. The purpose of this paper is to examine the experiences of a small population of students who have recently transferred from several community colleges to one four-year engineering school. Specifically, we will present preliminary findings derived from interviews with three Black students who started their academic careers at several community colleges in a Mid-Atlantic state, before transferring to the flagship institution of that same state. Interview transcripts will undergo a thorough analysis and will be coded to document rich themes. Multiple analyses of coded interview data will be performed by several members of the research team, as well as external evaluation members who are leading scholars in STEM and/or transfer education research. This research is part of a larger-scale, three year qualitative study, which will examine the academic trajectories of two distinct groups of Blacks in engineering majors: 1) Blacks born and educated in the United States and 2) Those born and educated in other countries. By looking at these populations distinctly, we will build upon past literature that disaggregates the experiences of Black STEM students who represent multiple identities across the African diaspora. Through this lens, we hope to highlight the impact that cultural background may have on the transfer experience. The theoretical framework guiding this study posits that the persistence of Black transfer students in engineering is a longitudinal process influenced by the intersection of both individual and institutional factors. We draw from the STEM transfer model, noting that the transfer process commences during a student’s community college education and continues through his/her transfer and enrollment in an engineering program at a four-year institution. The following factors contribute to our conceptualization of this process: pre-college background, community college prior to transfer, initial transfer to the four-year university, nearing 4-year degree completion.« less
  5. Recognizing current and future needs for a diverse skilled workforce in mechanical engineering and the rising cost of higher education that acts as a barrier for many talented students with interests in engineering, the NSF funded S-STEM project at a state university focuses resources and research on financial support coupled with curricular and co-curricular activities designed to facilitate student degree attainment, career development, and employability in STEM-related jobs. This program has provided enhanced educational opportunities to more than 90 economically disadvantaged and academically talented undergraduate students in the Mechanical Engineering Department in the past eight years. It is expected thatmore »approximately 45 academically talented and financially needy students, including students transferring from community colleges to four-year engineering programs will receive scholarship support in the next 5 years, with an average amount of $6,000 per year for up to four years to earn degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Through scholarships and supplemental support services, this program promotes full-time enrollment and will elevate the scholastic achievement of the S-STEM scholars, with a special emphasis on females and/or underrepresented minorities. It will provide a holistic and novel educational experience combining science, engineering, technology and medicine to improve student retention and future career prospects. The project builds on an established partnership between the state university and community colleges to improve and investigate the transfer experience of community college students to four-year programs, student retention at the university, and job placement and pathways to graduate school and employment. A mixed methods quantitative and qualitative research approach will examine the implementation and outcomes of proactive recruitment; selected high impact practices, such as orientation, one-to-one faculty mentoring, peer mentoring, and community building; participation by students in research-focused activities, such as research seminars and undergraduate experiences; and participation by students in career and professional development activities. In this paper, preliminary data will be presented discussing the attitudes and perceptions of the s-stem scholars and comparing students in scholarly programs and non-programmed situations. This research was supported by an NSF S-STEM grant (DUE-1742170).« less