With the help of two grants totaling $7.2 million, Stanislaus State is hoping to increase the number of students in science, technology, engineering and math fields and help high-achieving, low-income students complete degree programs.
Stanislaus State’s College of Science was awarded a five-year $5.8 million Department of Education grant to fund Students Transitioning to Engaged and Motivated — or STEM —Success, a program designed to help improve freshman and transfer student retention and graduation rates in the STEM fields.
“We were looking at different interventions to help students become more successful in STEM disciplines,” said Mark Grobner, dean of the College of Science. “We’re building programs to help students transition to college and become more connected to the STEM discipline they are coming to college for in hopes of making them more successful.”
The goals of STEM Success are to strengthen and expand support to local community colleges and increase programming to support the academic success of underserved student demographics.
“We have seen more students coming in prepared through these programs,” said Grobner. “It used to be that only 10 percent of students came prepared when they entered our STEM programs. Now we’re seeing 40 to 60 percent. We want our students to feel welcome and part of the college, and this program will do that.”
Grobner said that nearly two-thirds of students who start a STEM major at Stanislaus State are no longer STEM students by graduation, with many students citing difficulty of classes and lack of engagement as the reason they changed majors or transferred back to community college.
“We found that most of that loss occurs in the freshman and sophomore years. They either come to campus and are not fully prepared for college, they don’t feel part of the program or we just lose students to other disciplines,” said Grobner. “Similar things happen to transfer students. They, too, come here not quite prepared for a four-year college.
“The STEM Success program targets freshman and transfer students to help them be successful,” continued Grobner.
Under STEM Success, Stanislaus State will expand transfer articulation practices to help prepare incoming community college students for success in STEM’s bachelor’s degree programs by making sure they have taken all the prerequisites they need.
“We know a lot of students transfer here and want to go into a STEM discipline, but they don’t have any prerequisites so it takes them much longer,” said Grobner. “We want to reach out to them so they’re better informed so when they do transfer, they have the potential to be done in two years.”
The grant will also include engagement and support in each academic discipline, such as peer and faculty mentoring, undergraduate laboratory research and student-centered activities. The grant also allows for a STEM Summer Experience, which engages incoming freshmen in on-campus residential programs and offers transfer students structured, student-centered activities designed to improve retention and graduation rates.
“We’re going to bring freshmen to campus before the academic years begin and help with the remediation they need, provide programs, introduce different services the campus has available to them, get them involved with faculty and just getting them used to college life,” said Grobner.
In addition to this $5.8 million grant, Stanislaus State was also awarded a five-year $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. This money is part of a greater $3 million grant that was awarded by NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) to four colleges to support students in computer science programs.
With this grant, Stanislaus State hopes to support high-achieving, low-income students by pairing with Merced College. The money will be used to fund three cohorts of 10 students each.
“This program will help transfer-ready students from Merced continue working toward their degrees when they come to Stan State,” said Melanie Martin, computer science professor and co-principal investigator of the grant. “It will allow both Merced and Stanislaus students to focus on their academic success and graduate on time. We’re really excited to partner with Merced College. It’s been a fruitful pipeline for talented students, especially for the computer science program. We want community college students to join us at Stan State, and this grant will enable us to provide a foundation for them.”