California State University is located in a region with low education achievement. According to census data, only 72% of the population finish high school and only 15% of the population hold university degrees, which is well below national average. The region is also highly diverse, with 63% underrepresented minorities, and rapidly growing, with a 32% growth since the 2000 census. Enrollment in STEM majors is growing, especially in Engineering, but the student body displays several characteristics that place them at-risk. Most students begin university curriculum in either remedial mathematics or pre-calculus, instead of being calculus-ready. Several students, many of whom are first-generation college students, display other characteristics that place them at-risk, such as a low GPA or high course-repeat rate, during the first year of studies.
In the Summer of 2015, 26 students were chosen to participate in a one-week science exploratory summer program in one of three STEM disciplines: Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics. The program began with a three and a half day exploratory workshop in one of the disciplines, led by an experienced faculty, and concluded with a half-day career workshop. This program was modeled after previous work that has been shown to increase interest and retention in STEM disciplines for underrepresented minorities. The major focus of the program was to use hand-on activities to engage students, to introduce them to a STEM discipline of their interest, and to increase career awareness at an early stage. In the Chemistry program, students participated in the analysis of components of coffee. In the Engineering program, students engaged in observation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. Participants studied basic chaos theory in the Mathematics program.
Students participating in this program completed pre- and post-surveys. At least 52% of the participants identified themselves as underrepresented minority. A majority of the participants were enrolled in either remedial mathematics or pre-calculus at the time of application to the program. In the pre-survey, a majority of the participants are interested in their field of study, and a career in STEM, but state they are less confident in their knowledge and preparedness to be successful in a STEM major. Most of the participants also expressed an interest to learn more about their field of study and career opportunities. Some participants indicated that they are not sure about their choice of field of study, and would like to take the opportunity to explore.
In the post-survey, participants have shown an increased interest in their field of study (87%), a career in STEM (81%), and research in STEM (87%). 100% of survey respondents recommend this program to others in the future. Retention data and at-risk status will be tracked for participants and participants will be invited to a follow-up program in the Summer of 2016.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.