This planning grant will allow the creation of an AGEP alliance among the University of Central Florida (UCF, Orlando), the University of South Florida (USF, Tampa), Hillsborough Community College (HCC, Tampa), Valencia Community College (VCC, Orlando), and the Florida Education Fund (FEF, Tampa) in developing a formal AGEP proposal that will broaden the pathways to the professoriate. Broader pathways will include under-represented minority (URM) students in Associate in Arts (AA) programs at community colleges in addition to first time in college (FTIC) students at major universities. The community college transfer pathway is a major conduit by which Floridians enter the state university system. Furthermore the alliance will ascertain the feasibility of developing a pathway that encourages URM faculty at community colleges who lack terminal degrees to enter and successfully complete STEM doctoral programs. These are pathways that have been largely over-looked by recent AGEP initiatives. An integrated academic/social support network will be planned at three levels: level one promotes fundamental skills needed for success in STEM disciplines for freshmen and sophomore-level students at both community colleges and universities; level two develops more advanced skills for juniors and seniors at UCF and USF which includes both CC transfer students and FTIC students; and level three focuses on the success of doctoral URM students. A thread of preparing future faculty programming will weave throughout the three levels. Survey and focus group data from both CC transfer and FTIC under-represented students and current URM doctoral students in STEM programs will be collected. These data will assess their perceptions, concerns, and social factors that may impact their success in both STEM baccalaureate and subsequent STEM graduate programs. A course performance analysis will be conducted to identify key areas where the support net should be strengthened. The planning grant will also examine the many academic support programs that already exist at the alliance institutions for effective approaches that could be expanded to include the AGEP students or tweaked to better serve the needs of AGEP students. Of particular interest are the innovative and successful academic/social support net programs currently in place at the Florida Education Fund (FEF) that can be adapted to both undergraduate and graduate levels. Intellectual merit of the proposed activity. This planning grant will provide a comprehensive look at the perceptions, concerns, and social factors of STEM URM students in AA programs at community colleges, transfer students in STEM baccalaureate programs at state universities, and FTIC students in baccalaureate programs at state universities. In addition it will examine the perceptions of URM students in STEM doctoral programs as they reflect back on their undergraduate experience. The analysis will offer insight into the social and academic challenges and barriers the students face as they progress along their different educational paths. Furthermore, since it is anticipated that approximately 60% of the URM students being surveyed will be Hispanic with the remainder being African American and Native American, it is possible that cultural differences may emerge. These findings will be most important in planning an effective AGEP academic/ social support net leading to the professoriate. Broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity. This planning grant will allow the development of an AGEP that will increase the number of URM students entering the professoriate. The greatest impact of this grant will be on developing a support model for URM community college transfer students as they complete their baccalaureate degrees and move into doctoral programs with an eye on entering the professoriate. This component of the grant could have a substantial impact since an increasing number of students across the nation are choosing to enter higher education through the community colleges.

Project Report

The purpose of this planning grant was to determine the feasibility of increasing the number of under-represented minority (URM) students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduate programs by developing a pathway that begins with an Associate of Arts (AA) degree at the community college, proceeds through the bachelors degree at a university, and ultimately ends with admission to and graduation from a masters and/or doctoral degree program. This is necessary because African American, Hispanic, and Native American students are underrepresented in STEM graduate programs, and graduates with STEM masters and doctoral degrees are needed for both faculty positions and advanced industry related jobs where minority citizens are also underrepresented. The AA/ bachelors pathway is already well established as the primary pathway for African American and Hispanic students entering higher education in Florida. It is especially important for those who are the first in their families to attend college (60%, "first generation"). However our study found that this pathway as currently structured yielded relatively few students of any ethnicity to STEM graduate programs. Therefore the University of Central Florida (UCF, Orlando), the University of South Florida (USF, Tampa), Valencia College (Orlando), Hillsborough Community College (Tampa), and the Florida Education Fund (Tampa) formed an alliance to identify factors that impeded the flow of students in the AA/bachelors pathway from entering STEM graduate programs and propose a model pathway to reduce the impediments. This study also examined the aspirational goals and motivational and inspirational factors among the different ethnicities of undergraduate and graduate students. Only students who were US citizens or permanent residents were included in the study. Using extensive surveys and focus groups of both undergraduate and graduate students at community colleges and universities; surveys and interviews of STEM faculty and academic support professionals; and enrollment data analyses, this study found multiple factors that negatively impacted the flow of AA/ bachelor pathway students to graduate programs. It was found that community college and transfer students often lacked a vision of STEM career possibilities and the necessary graduate-level pathway to acquire them. Also, community college students were often poorly advised and took substantially more courses than necessary to transfer to a university. But even with more courses, most transfer students lacked the required prerequisites for both their desired bachelors and ultimately graduate degree programs. Therefore they were academically unprepared and had to take additional university courses thus adding time and expense to their graduation. This was especially true for the mathematics prerequisites for engineering and physical science degree programs. Transfer students with AA degrees usually entered the university as juniors, which was also a critical time in preparing for admissions to graduate programs. Therefore any combination of factors that resulted in "transfer shock" in the junior year impeded their admissions into graduate programs. This study found that many transfer students lacked a clear understanding of the time commitment, academic rigor, and expectations of the university and therefore experienced "transfer shock" as indicated by their resulting GPAs and retention. Furthermore URM transfer students often lacked an academic and social support community and were less likely to have a support network of fellow students to discuss academic issues and problems. Another impediment to graduate admissions was the lack of opportunity for transfer students to have undergraduate research experiences which STEM faculty members valued most highly when admitting students to their graduate programs. This study also examined the demographics and experiences of STEM graduate students at UCF and USF. As also found in national studies, URM students were seriously underrepresented (14.5%) and only one third of either URM or white graduate students were "first generation". It was also found that URM graduate students were less likely to have an academic and social support community of students and faculty to discuss issues and problems. And students of all ethnicities were often missing leadership and professional development opportunities to enhance their mentoring, teaching, and research skills. Based on these findings, it was proposed to extend the critical AA/bachelors pathway to include graduate education in order to increase URM and "first generation" students. Using a variety of strategies to circumvent the described impediments, URM AA/bachelors students will be better prepared for competitive admission into STEM graduate programs. One important strategy will integrate URM graduate students into the pathway at key points to serve as research mentors, tutors, and role models for the undergraduate URM students. This approach will allow URM graduate students to hone their professional development skills while creating a joint support community of both URM undergraduate and graduate students. The proposal to test the effectiveness of this model was submitted to NSF on November 1, 2012. ("AGEP-T Collaborative Research: Creating a Critical STEM Pathway from the Community College to the Professoriate" , NSF Tracking Number HRD-1307715)

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Mark H. Leddy
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University of Central Florida
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