The objective of "Cardinal Science Scholars: Enhancing Student Opportunities and Retention in Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Physics" is to provide a significant scholarship and exceptional academic and co-curricular experiences to at least 30 students who are planning on majoring in chemistry, biochemistry, or physics. Faculty in these disciplines together with the Office of Admissions are recruiting academically talented students with financial need from Ohio schools that have a high percentage of minorities, women, and/or an emphasis on STEM education. Once on campus, the Cardinal Science Scholars are forming an active learning community through activities including a weeklong summer immersion experience, a year-long seminar program focusing on career options, programs at the Center for Career Planning, residence in a living/learning house, and mentoring triads consisting of a mentor/scholar, upper level student, and alumnae. The merit of this project lies in the unique programming to increase career preparation for and retention of the scholars, as well as the mentoring triads. The broader impact includes not only providing scholarships to select students, but also building a more supportive community for all students within these departments. Additionally, recruiting efforts at the high schools are encouraging all students to pursue STEM fields, regardless of which college or university they will be attending.
The Cardinal Science Scholar Program was established to provide academic, career, and financial support to students pursuing select STEM majors at Otterbein University, including Biochemistry, Chemistry, 3/2 Engineering, and Physics. Incoming cohorts of students were selected based on financial and academic criteria and immersed into a living-learning culture that included attending a multiple day summer orientation, living in the same housing area during their first year, taking similar coursework, and participating in a mentoring team with a third or fourth year student. The students also participated in seminars about academic preparation (time management, study strategies, learning styles, etc.), career preparation (resume preparation, interview tips, internship and job searching strategies, etc.), and were able to interact with professionals from regional graduate programs and STEM industries, as well as complete undergraduate research or internships. Forty six students were supported throughout the lifetime of this award, and 74% of them have graduated or on track to graduate in STEM disciplines from Otterbein. This is significantly higher than the 34% six-year graduation rate prior to beginning the program, and higher than that of peers not involved in the program (40%). Further, the number of incoming students majoring in these fields has increased from an average of 19 per year to 40 per year, although this may in part be an artifact due to the replacement of our Biochemistry major with a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology program. Additionally, the career goals of these students have changed to an emphasis on pursuing employment or advanced degrees in science fields as opposed to attending medical or dental school. Thus, creating an enriched learning environment for these students has increased student persistence and success in STEM fields.