Supporting Undergraduate Students in Earning a STEM Degree

By Ryan Sweeder and Philip E. Strong.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Through a qualitative study of a cohort of 15 STEM majors in a scholarship program using reflective essays and interviews, we examined the significant experiences that helped students decide to remain in a STEM major. We identified that students enter with deficiencies in knowledge of 1) the expectations of a research based science career, 2) the breadth of science careers, and 3) the path necessary to reach a career. We utilized a number of interventions to engage students with practicing scientists and saw students 1) identify/solidify a potential career path, 2) accept the uncertainty of a career path, and 3) develop and better understand how they can fit into the science community. We provide recommendations for minor steps to improve the early undergraduate student experiences to overcome some of these major challenges.

Keywords: STEM, Science, Undergraduate Education

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.83-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 318.354KB).

Dr. Ryan Sweeder

Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Ryan D. Sweeder is an Associate Professor of chemistry in the Lyman Briggs College (a residential science program) at Michigan State University. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in inorganic chemistry and chemistry education and completed his postdoctoral studies at Cornell University. He is a member of Michigan State University’s Center for Research on College Science Teaching and Learning (CRCSTL) and the Geocognition Research Laboratory. He and his research group explore gender inequity in science education, strategies to retain students in the sciences, and the impact of curricular interventions on student learning.

Dr. Philip E. Strong

Assistant Dean, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

Philip E. Strong is the Assistant Dean of the Lyman Briggs College (a residential science program) at Michigan State University. He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education. His research has focused on better understanding how student-faculty relationships and learning communities impact the undergraduate student experience. He recently directed the pilot for MSU's transition to a "neighborhood" model for campus support and student success, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership with Central Michigan University.