Increasing 2-yr Student Graduation and Transfer Rates through STEM Industrial and Academic Partnerships
Graduation and transfer rates for students attending 2-year institutions and pursuing 4-year degrees are disappointingly low, especially for those students majoring in STEM fields. The development and implementation of successful practices for increasing graduation and transfer rates have been and continue to be challenging for those interested in improving the success of 2-year STEM students on the pathway to their baccalaureate degrees.
In order to address the issue of low STEM retention and transfer rates at our 2-year institution, National Science Foundation funding supported the development of a program in Spring 2012 for 2-year, full-time students, with a minimum 2.8 grade point average, U.S. citizenship or status as permanent resident alien or refugee alien, and majoring in a STEM field of study. One critical pillar of this program was the creation of industrial and academic partnerships in an effort to further engage students to increase degree attainment and transfer in STEM fields.
STEM industrial and academic partnerships were established through STEM industry tours and undergraduate research experiences. STEM industry tours provided students with a first-hand glimpse of today’s STEM industries, assisted students to make the connection between what they learn in the classroom and real world applications of this knowledge, and exposed them to people working in a STEM field. Academic partnerships provided students with an opportunity to engage in a novel “3+8” undergraduate research experience. Students participated in 3 weeks of undergraduate research at the 2-year institution followed by 8 weeks of research at a 4-year institution. Each partnership activity was evaluated to examine the connection between student involvement and their consequent attitude in the following areas: STEM Engagement, STEM Identity and Belonging, and Intent to Persist.
In this paper, we determine the correlation between exposure to real world work environments (STEM industrial and academic partnerships) on graduation and transfer rates of 2-year college STEM students. Results of these efforts are based on feedback from student individual and focus group interviews, results from student surveys after STEM industry tours and research experiences, as well as comparisons of program participants’ graduation and transfer rates with those for the overall STEM student population at this community college.
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