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Navigating Pathways to Success: Improving Outcomes for Rural Community College STEM Scholars through Mentoring and Comprehensive Interventions: Cape Cod Community College

Fredrick Bsharah

[email protected]

Millions of STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in the future. For low-income, rural, diverse students, a community college can be the only accessible entry point for higher education, a gateway to STEM careers. Unfortunately, these students face complex barriers that decrease their ability to pursue and successfully complete STEM programs. Over five years, Cape Cod Community College's S-STEM program will fund over fifty scholarships to academically talented students with demonstrated financial need in its engineering, computer science, mathematics, and science programs. In addition to financial support, the STEM Scholars program will employ evidence-based strategies of effective mentoring, academic support, cohort-building, and other interventions to help Scholars persist, transfer to four-year degree programs, and prepare them for STEM careers. To achieve program goals, the college will work with regional high schools and transfer universities. The project will focus on increasing access and entry for low-income, rural, and diverse students initially into STEM programs and then into well-paid, in-demand STEM careers.<br/><br/>Project goals are to increase recruitment, retention, completion, and transfer rates in STEM programs among students who are academically talented and have demonstrated financial need. Evidence-based, comprehensive interventions will be used to promote student success. Students will start by attending a cohort-based orientation designed to develop a shared sense of purpose and community. Faculty mentors will have frequent meetings with students to provide career-focused advising, connect students with resources, and discuss any academic or personal issues that may put student success at-risk. In addition, students will participate in scheduled study groups, tutoring, and supplemental instruction. Transfer advising and visits to transfer universities will be initiated during each student's first term. To support STEM profession exploration, the project will offer industry partner mentoring, industry speaker panels, visits to industry job sites, internship and job shadowing opportunities, and attendance at professional conferences. To create a cohort and a sense of connection, the project will offer opportunities for students to socialize and participate in group identity-building activities. Finally, this project will fund scholarships to address student need. As part of their efforts, the project team will seek to determine which activities have the most impact on student retention, completion, and transfer in STEM programs, particularly among rural students, and why. Dissemination of results will take place in publications, online, and through conferences. This project furthers the goals of the NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program by increasing the number of low-income academically talented students who earn degrees in STEM fields.<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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