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Engagement, Achievement, and Graduation of Undergraduate Students: A Partnership in STEM Education: Portland State University

Gwynn Johnson

[email protected]

This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at Portland State University and Heritage University. Portland State University is a four-year urban institution; Heritage University is a two-year, rural, minority-serving institution located on the Yakama Reservation in Washington State. Over its five-year duration, this project will bridge the urban-rural divide by awarding two-year or four-year scholarships to at least 116 students who are pursuing associate's or bachelor's degrees in STEM fields, including environmental sciences and engineering. The project is centered on the organizing theme of environmental pollution in the Columbia River Basin and the Pacific Northwest. Scholarships will be provided to high-achieving STEM students, enabling them to participate in research and service-learning projects that address authentic regional issues, focus on community-based challenges, and strengthen community connections. The project will create new STEM career pathways for Heritage University students by building a seamless transition into undergraduate STEM programs at Portland State University. Project outcomes include increased STEM retention and graduation rates of Scholars at both institutions. As a result, the project has the potential to broaden participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in the local and regional STEM workforce.<br/><br/>The overall goal of this project is to increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with demonstrated financial need. Through recruitment at local high schools and community colleges, outreach across both campuses, the use of promotional materials and social media postings, a broad group of Scholars will be recruited. The project will focus on increasing enrollment, retention, and graduation in STEM majors by developing the student's sense of science identity in environmental sciences and engineering. A research study will be conducted to advance understanding of correlative relationships between the many beneficial elements of the project, such as deliberative pedagogy, research experiences, student sense of community, science identity, and research self-efficacy. An experienced, independent external evaluator, who is an educational psychologist, will conduct formative and summative evaluation of the project. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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