The purpose of the STEM Scholar Master’s Program is to attract more students to science, technology, engineering, math majors and provide them with support in a variety of ways. It is a five-year program funded through a National Science Foundation grant of $630,410. This funding supports scholarships for full-time online graduate students of up to $10,000 each for six to twelve students per year who have chosen degree programs in a STEM field. The online master’s degree programs available under this grant include Engineering, Project Management, and Integrated Supply Chain Management.
Institutions and programs serving online graduate students in STEM fields often find meeting online student needs in the areas of career guidance and student services to be a challenge. This program focuses on providing an extraordinary level of support and interaction for the program participants personally, academically, and professionally. This support includes financial assistance, academic guidance within their program and specific courses, peer and career mentoring, an online scholar community, and leadership development activities.
During the first year of the program, scholars who have been accepted into the program are paired with an academic advisor, peer mentor, and a champion. These individuals form a support network for the scholar throughout their time in the program. The advisor provides guidance to the scholar from initial course selection to program completion, and serves as a resource throughout their academic career. Peer mentors are current students or alumni of the scholar’s degree program who help the scholar establish goals and gain a better understanding of the program. All peer mentors complete a mentorship training program before they are paired with a scholar to help ensure success. Finally, each scholar is assigned a champion, an individual active in a STEM field who provides the scholar with networking and professional development opportunities. Throughout the scholar’s degree program, they connect with each of these resources at minimum once per month.
Along with the support of their advisor, peer mentor, and champion, scholars are also presented with resources in the online scholar community, such as Scholar Spot programming. The Scholar Spots are online presentations made by professionals in STEM fields and focus on resources and opportunities for STEM careers relevant to the students. During these presentations, students have the opportunity to interact with the professionals and ask questions. Additional information is also provided on professional organizations and networking opportunities.
The development of this support network and the interactions between scholars and their advisors, peer mentors, and champions have led to many positive outcomes for both the scholars and the institution. Our poster session will highlight and expand upon the important role these individuals and resources have played in improving the student experience and student retention.
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