The Brooklyn College departments of Physics, Geology, and Education and the Interdepartmental Program in Environmental Studies are collaborating to implement an innovative program to redirect students to majors in under-enrolled science majors. The program offers a four-year program in support of STEM majors in Physics, Earth Science, and Environmental Studies. Participants are selected from among entering freshmen who have performed well in high school mathematics and science but have not expressed an interest in majoring in STEM fields. The program provides a summer bridge program to develop quantitative reasoning, problem solving and study skills and to expose students to career opportunities in physical-science related, socially- rewarding professions. It continues in the freshman year with activity-based instruction in physics, block-programming in other coursework and Peer-led Team Learning (PLTL) support in the context of a science Learning Community. Summer internships provide guided experience with research in years one, two and three. Coordinated class enrollments continue for years 2-4, but participants are weaned from formal support. We project that 50% of entering participants will ultimately graduate as majors in the physical sciences identified above, increasing graduation rates in these areas by a factor of five. Intellectual Merit: The project is testing a model for increasing the number of STEM majors in physical sciences including physics, earth sciences and environmental studies by redirection of qualified students who have not expressed interest in a STEM major. This project is based upon the hypothesis that if entering college students are made aware of the variety of rewarding careers available to STEM graduates, they can be induced to enter STEM majors in the physical sciences. A second hypothesis is that activity-based instruction supported by Peer-led Team Learning will help retain these redirected students. A third hypothesis is that a summer bridge program will ease the transition to the critical first year of college-level science study and contribute to success among redirected students. A fourth hypothesis is that a learning environment that is supportive both socially and academically will contribute to retention of these redirected students in STEM majors. A final hypothesis is that such a program can become self-sustaining in a comprehensive publicly-supported urban institution. Broader Impacts: The project is developing and testing a prototype for redirection of qualified college students into majors in physical sciences that can be replicated in other large urban colleges. Locally, our city's young people will be made aware of, and provided with, an avenue to enter a broader range of financially and socially rewarding careers. The project also is expected to increase the number of well-trained local high school science teachers, which should positively impact the pipeline of qualified STEM majors from the largely minority area high schools in the future.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Susan H. Hixson
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CUNY Brooklyn College
United States
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