The goal of the proposed STEM BUILD@UMBC initiative is to create a comprehensive, multidimensional model for a public research university to increase the number of students from all backgrounds completing majors in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and entering graduate school and/or the STEM workforce. Through the nationally recognized Meyerhoff Scholars and MARC U*STAR programs, and other initiatives focused on increasing minority participation in STEM, UMBC faculty, staff, and administrators have learned key lessons about the importance of building community among aspiring STEM majors, setting high expectations, and providing students with significant research experiences and academic, financial, and social support. UMBC is nationally recognized as a model of innovation and inclusive excellence, and the campus is the leader among predominantly white institutions - and 6* among all universities - in the number of African American bachelor's degree recipients who go on to complete STEM Ph.D.s, with two-thirds of those alumni completing Ph.D.s in the life sciences (NSF, 2013). Large numbers of students begin their college experiences aspiring to complete majors in the life sciences and other STEM areas but switch to non-STEM majors or leave without earning baccalaureate degrees. Central to the STEM BUiLD@UMBC Student Training Core proposal is the development of a training program combining academic, social and financial support to help participants develop the study habits and skills needed to complete majors in the life sciences and related areas. The program will provide comprehensive support to 80 students over the five-year study period -native UMBC and transfer students - and aims in particular to involve students from groups that are currently underrepresented in STEM. One key element of the program is the development of UMBC's first STEM Living and Learning Community (LLC) to maximize social and emotional support while encouraging group study and other activities that build community. A project-based Affinity Group Research model will involve students in meaningful research activities, providing opportunities for academic enrichment while also increasing the likelihood they will persist in life science and other STEM majors.
The STEM BUILD@UMBC initiative is based on the premise that large numbers of students from all backgrounds have the capacity to excel in the life sciences and make valuable contributions as members of the country's scientific workforce. Building on existing models for student engagement and success, the initiative will provide important insights into innovative practices to help a broad range of students succeed.