Work-focused Experiential Learning to Increase STEM Student Retention and Graduation at Two-year Hispanic-serving Institutions

Cynthia Kay Pickering, Caroline VanIngen-Dunn, Maria A. Reyes

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

With support from the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education, this five-year project led by a two-year Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) seeks to provide underrepresented students with mentored work experiences in computer information systems. Students will have access to paid on-campus work experiences and internships in businesses and industries. It is anticipated that some examples of potential student projects include mobile application development, cybersecurity, and computer support. It is expected that these experiences will increase undergraduate student interest, persistence, and success in computer information systems, as well as in STEM more broadly. To ensure that they are well-prepared for and gain the most from their work experiences, students will receive training on employability skills such as communication, teamwork, and project management. In addition, during their work experiences, students will be mentored by faculty, industry professionals, and peers. To strengthen the capacity of faculty to serve all students, including Hispanic students, the project will provide faculty with professional development focused on an equity mindset. This framework to provide mentored work experiences will be developed and piloted at Phoenix College, in the computer information technology department and eventually expanded to other STEM fields at the institution. Following this, the project also intends to expand this framework to four other two-year HSIs in the region. Through this work, the project aims to develop a replicable model for how two-year institutions can develop work experiences that foster increased student graduation and entry into STEM career pathways. This project, which is currently in its first year, seeks to examine how a curriculum that integrates cross-sector partnerships to provide work experiences can enhance STEM learning and retention. Using mixed methods and grounded theory, the project will expand knowledge about: (1) the impact of cross-sector partnerships that support work-focused experiential teaching and learning; (2) systematic ways to maintain and better use cross-sector partnerships; and (3) the degree to which a model of work-focused learning experiences can be adopted at other two-year HSIs and by other STEM fields. Baseline data about Hispanic serving identity at the pilot institution has been collected and assessed at the institutional, departmental, and for different educator roles including faculty, support staff, and administrative leaders to produce inputs towards developing a detailed plan of action. Early results from baseline data, visualizations, planning responses, and initial project activities for student work experiences and faculty professional development will be reported in the submission. The impact of Covid-19 to Year 1 activities will also be discussed. Expected long term results of the project include: development of sustainable mechanisms to foster cross-sector partnerships; increased student retention and workforce readiness; and measurable successes for STEM students, particularly Hispanic students, at two-year HSIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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