Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Building a Community of Scholars: One University's Story of Students Engaged in Learning Science, Mathematics, and Engineering through a NSF S-STEM Grant - Part II

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Building a Community of Scholars: One University's Story of Students Engaged in Learning Science, Mathematics, and Engineering through a NSF S-STEM Grant - Part II

Article excerpt

Abstract

The School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (SEMS) at Robert Morris University (RMU) was awarded a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund scholarships to 21 academically talented but financially challenged students majoring in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Each student received a total of $24,000 over their four years of study. This study presents the experiences during years three through five of the grant project. Most importantly, this paper focuses on the experiences and tracking data from this cohort of students during their second, third, and fourth years as college students.

Terms: STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics), SEMS (School of Engineering, Math and Science

Introduction

In our previously published JSTEM article (2012) we explain that "While 25 percent of high-achieving lowerincome students fall out of the top academic quartile in math in high school, only 16 percent of high-achieving upper income students do so" (Wyner et al., 2007). This margin of difference may affect how these same lowerincome students perceive math and science programs. There is also evidence that math and science are yet among the subjects underrepresented by minorities and women. Not only are they limited in terms of income, but also they may be limited as to choice of discipline or major, especially in the math and science. With this in mind, The School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (SEMS) at Robert Morris University successfully pursued a fiveyear grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award scholarships to 21 academically talented but financially challenged students majoring in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)" (Kalevitch et al., 2012). The purpose of this paper is a continuation of the findings reported from years two through four of the STEM program relative to both academic progress and selfefficacy of the student participants. Drs. George Semich and James Bernauer conducted focus group queries throughout this time and will be reporting these qualitative findings in a separate article. Focus group queries were conducted at the beginning the program, during the first two weeks of their second semester, at the end of their first year, and finally near the end of their last year.

Background

Our previous article mentioned that "in a report from Tapping America's Promise: Education for Innovation Initiative 2008, it was noted that by the year 2015 the goal was to increase the annual number of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and math bachelor level undergraduates. The competition from foreign countries certainly has impacted the United States relative to its ability to move forward in these key areas. In fact, President Obama (2010) proposed a national initiative to increase the number of mathematics and science teachers across the nation, and recognized more than 100 educators and mentors, including 56 NEA members, for their outstanding contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In the president's fiscal year 2011 budget, $150 million of the Investing in Innovation fund will be focused on STEM projects. Moving forward is not a matter of suggestion but rather a matter of expressed need" (Kalevitch et al., 2012).

In addition, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology presented a report to the President titled, "Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" in February 2012. This report states that economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology. To meet this goal, the United States will need to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees by about 34% annually over current rates. …

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