Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Best Practices in Retention of Underrepresented Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) in the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (Tennessee Lsamp)

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Best Practices in Retention of Underrepresented Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) in the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (Tennessee Lsamp)

Article excerpt

A sense of urgency is needed to increase the number of AfricanAmericans earning baccalaureate degrees through doctorate degrees in the STEM areas. The National Center For Education Statistics (2000) report, Entry and Persistence of Women and Minorities in College and Science and Engineering, indicated that African-Americans earned 6.2 percent of the baccalaureate degrees and 2.2 percent of the doctorate degrees awarded in science and engineering. "With people of color representing the majority of students now entering the academic pipeline, the United States is challenged to develop the human capital of African-Americans, American Indians, Chicanos and Latinos to meet the continued demand for STEM professionals" (Hammarth, 2000, p. 92).

Despite a significant increase in national testing and high school graduation rates, African-Americans are still lagging behind in retention and graduation rates from postsecondary institutions on both the undergraduate and graduate level. "For the past 100 years, the institutional graduation rate has stubbornly held at the 50 percent mark: half of all students entering higher education fail to realize their dreams and aspirations based on earning a degree" (Educational Policy Institute [EPI], 2003, p. 6).

There are a number of programs that have been created to increase the entry and completion of STEM degrees by underrepresented groups. The most notable is probably the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). LSAMP is a National Science Foundation funded program, which actively recruits, retains, and graduates underrepresented minorities in STEM. The overall objective is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities receiving STEM degrees on the baccalaureate level and put them on the pathway for graduate degree programs. Unlike most traditional programs, the LSAMP programs are multi-faceted and built upon alliances.

The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the best practices in retention of underrepresented minorities in STEM developed in the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (Tennessee LSAMP) Alliance since its inception in 2002. The Tennessee LSAMP program is funded by the National Science Foundation. This program is focused on the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students who major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Tennessee LSAMP is comprised of six major colleges and universities located in the state of Tennessee: Tennessee State University (lead institution), LeMoyne-Owen College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee (Knoxville), and Vanderbilt University. Each of these campuses is charged with developing student initiatives to help in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented STEM students on their campuses. Student support services have been proven to have a positive effect on student retention (Lenning, Sauer, Beal, 1980). Since each campus has its own unique culture and climate, the structures of these initiatives will vary. Therefore, for the purpose of this paper, the authors wanted to explore what each Alliance institution considered to be a "best practice" in the retention of underrepresented minorities in STEM majors.

Retention Programs and Systems

Literature suggests that the focus of retaining underrepresented groups should not be narrowly defined to one program or series of programs. "Even though there are a plethora of programs and services to help minority students succeed, a disparity in minority and majority retention rates remains" (Seidman, 2005). Despite the success of the LSAMP program in increasing the number of minorities pursuing and completing STEM degrees, it is only one program. Many campuses have at least one program. "The ultimate challenge is not to create assessment programs but to develop services that respond to the academic and social needs of students" (Sherman et al, 1994). …

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