Developing a Science Scholars Program and Learning Community Through NSF S-STEM

Monday, September 9, 2013
Governor's Hall I (trade show) (Statehouse Convention Center)
Jim Winter , Graduate Institute of Technology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR
Janet Lanza , Biology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR
Many education commissions express concern that the US is not producing enough people in STEM fields to fuel our knowledge-based economy.  The NSF S-STEM  program provides monies to attract more students to STEM fields, increase the number of STEM graduates, and improve their quality.  We have directed an S-STEM project since 2008 for students majoring in biology, chemistry, and geology.  Our approach has been to develop a learning community by providing a science-oriented freshmen experience course, enrolling students in common sections of courses, housing students together, and arranging social events. We provide scholarships, in-depth, individualized advising, workshops, seminars, and field trips to graduate schools and prospective employers. We also promote undergraduate research and internships.

Since 2008, we admitted 98 students into the University Science Scholars Program (USSP). Of these, 13.3% have graduated, 56.7% remain in the program, and 6% are in STEM but on academic probation in USSP. The remaining 24% switched to a non-STEM field (12%) or left UALR (12%).  We provide tips that we have learned about recruiting and selecting students, communicating with students, developing a learning community, retaining students, finding campus partners, financial aid rules, interacting with financial aid and scholarship programs, and institutionalizing programs.