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Mentored Pathways from Community College to Graduate School and Chemistry Careers: Southwestern College

David Hecht

[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. Over five years, this project will fund 120 scholarships to four groups of 30 students who are pursuing associate degrees at Southwestern College, and 45 scholarships for 30 transfer students and 15 graduate students who are pursuing baccalaureate and graduate degrees in chemistry and biochemistry at San Diego State University. This project will create an integrated mentoring and research pathway that bridges the chemistry and biochemistry programs at Southwestern College and San Diego State University. Both Southwestern College and San Diego State University are Hispanic-Serving Institutions. As a result, the project has the potential to improve diversity in STEM graduate programs and careers by identifying and removing roadblocks to student transfer and post-transfer success. Along with financial support, scholars will have opportunities to participate in sustained undergraduate research experiences throughout their academic careers. Additional supports include: mentoring by faculty, graduate students, and peers; opportunities for students to attend and present their research at national and regional professional conferences; and career/graduate school application workshops. Mentors will participate in training on best practices in mentoring to ensure high-quality research experiences for all students. These proposed activities are designed to provide a mentored pathway from community college into graduate school and STEM careers. <br/><br/>The objectives of this project are to: improve student success, retention, and completion of chemistry courses and degrees at Southwestern College and at San Diego State University; facilitate transfer of academically talented, low-income students to San Diego State University as Chemistry/Biochemistry majors; and increase graduate school acceptance rates and/or STEM career placement rates after graduation. Knowledge generation activities will focus on three areas. First, the project will examine how scholarships and participation in program activities affect traditional metrics of student success such as GPA, transfer rates, persistence, loans, time to degree, career plans, and employment after degree. Second, using the lens of social cognitive career theory and measurements of scientific self-efficacy, confidence, scientific identity, and sense of belonging, it will examine how students' affective domain is influenced by program activities. Finally, the mentoring activities themselves will be evaluated to understand the effects of structured mentoring experiences on both mentors and mentees. Dissemination of results through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and outreach will enable other community college-university partnerships to apply lessons learned from this program to enhance student success in other locations. It is expected that the research projects in which students participate will also produce new scientific knowledge in chemistry, including organic chemistry, chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, catalysis, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. 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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