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Bridging Faculty and Student Cultures: Culturally Responsive Support for STEM Students Transferring between Two and Four Year Hispanic Serving Institutions

Sponsored by National Science Foundation

$4.8M Funding
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This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need. The project will support students at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, both Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs). Over five-years, this project will provide scholarships to 94 students, providing each student with up to six semesters of support. The scholarships will be awarded to three annual cohorts of students who begin at Pima Community College, where they will pursue Associate of Science degrees with the intention to transfer and complete Bachelor of Science degrees at the University of Arizona. Supported majors include biological sciences, physical sciences, mathematical sciences, computer and information sciences, geosciences, and engineering. The project will implement a Culturally-responsive Community of Practice, through which faculty, advisors, and peer mentors will develop skills in asset-based, student-centered approaches. The project's broader impacts will include improving STEM educator and faculty development, increasing participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM, strengthening partnerships between two-year and four-year HSIs, and contributing to the development of a diverse STEM workforce. The importance of this project rests in its focus on transforming faculty culture by building a STEM Culturally-Responsive Community of Practice that bridges the community college and university contexts and advances transfer student success. The overall goal of this project is to increase STEM degree completion by low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with demonstrated financial need. It aims to achieve this goal by implementing and then investigating a scalable, transferrable model for creating a Culturally-responsive Community of Practice that will improve faculty and peer mentoring, thus supporting students' during their last year in community college and first two years after transfer into the university. The three specific aims of this project are to: 1) enhance students' sense of STEM belonging; 2) improve academic achievement at the University of Arizona; and 3) increase student interest in STEM careers. The project research questions include: 1) What key components contribute to both the development and capacity of a Culturally-responsive Community of Practice to transform the approach of STEM faculty across a community college and university context? 2) How can a Culturally-responsive Community of Practice improve the experiences and foster the STEM identity of transfer students and bridge the gap between the STEM ecosystems at two- and four-year HSIs? 3) How can bridging the gap improve academic, research, and career-relevant outcomes for students transferring into STEM majors? Implementing the project activities, then assessing impact, will inform improvements to professional development for STEM faculty, mentors, and advisors. The results will also advance understanding of how to apply asset-based approaches in postsecondary contexts, combat stereotype threat, and address the lower confidence of experienced students who are at greater risk of leaving STEM. Annual outcome data and survey responses from Scholars will be compared to a matched comparison group of students to evaluate project effectiveness. Results will be disseminated through a website, institutional policy briefs, workshops, conference presentations, and journal publications. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.