In order to maintain the United States’ preeminence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the country must produce approximately one million more STEM professionals over the next decade than are projected to graduate at current rates (PCAST 2012). The National Science Foundation Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (NSF-STEP) at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona has responded to the call. A commonly cited best-practice for increasing low-income, underrepresented minority (URM), and first-generation student participation in STEM includes undergraduate research. Through submitting and publishing research, students glean various personal benefits including presenting a professional representation of previously completed undergraduate work, increasing chances of graduate school acceptance, and distinguishing themselves in the job market (Jones & Canuel, 2013). Traditional publishing opportunities may be out of reach for some students engaged in undergraduate research, especially with semester-long apprenticeships (Pacifici and Thomson, 2011), however, an institutional repository can offer alternative publishing opportunities for showcasing research projects. Additionally, publishing their work in an institutional repository allows students to expand the knowledge and practice of other students currently conducting research by providing an existing knowledge base of student work.
At Cal Poly Pomona (CPP), the NSF-STEP team has collaborated with the University Library to establish an online repository, Bronco Scholar, providing persistent and reliable access to published scholarly and creative outputs of CPP faculty, staff, and students. Launched in February 2014, the repository was designed with the goals of increasing student interest in undergraduate research; facilitating collaborations between students and faculty mentors by providing a searchable space for finding faculty mentors with similar research interests; helping students understand expectations and opportunities in undergraduate research by referencing works in the repository; creating sustainability of previously developed STEP learning materials; and providing a showcase for student work created at Cal Poly Pomona. To date, undergraduate research included in the Cal Poly Pomona institutional repository consists of culminating reports from McNair Scholars, submissions from the annual Student Research Conference, and exemplary research papers written by undergraduate students that were recommended for publication by faculty members. It has expanded to include digital scholarship across disciplines and serve as a permanent space for digital files. The collection has increased from 50 learning objects since launching to over 500 objects with a projected growth of over 500 objects yearly. Using stable URLs generated in Bronco Scholar for tracking, student research is the most frequently downloaded content in Bronco Scholar, constituting 85% of all traffic. Documenting these works in a central, professional repository increases campus-wide awareness of the types of research and learning occurring on campus, which can open up opportunities for networking and research collaboration, as well as retain target students in STEM fields. Data reflecting the impact of Bronco Scholar on student success and career choices will be discussed in this article.
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