This project will contribute to the regional need for scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with verified financial need at Samford University. Over its five-year duration, the project will fund scholarships to 27 different full-time transfer students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, environmental science, marine science, math, and computer science. The students will enter in three annual cohorts and each Scholar will receive two to three years of funding. The project aims to increase student persistence in STEM fields by linking scholarships with effective support activities, student services, academic and career mentoring, and preparation for summer research and internships. Community college students who transfer to four-year institutions often have a first-semester drop in average grades and are at risk for leaving for leaving without completing a degree. This project will apply research about how to help students recognize and develop their learning strengths. In addition, it will evaluate whether increasing such self-awareness can contribute to academic success and be a generally successful approach for increasing degree completion. A large percent of students who transfer from community colleges are from low income and other populations that are underrepresented in math and science. As a result, this project has significant potential to broaden participation in STEM fields and to learn more about how mentoring, framing career goals, and fostering student awareness of their own learning can increase transfer student persistence to graduation.

The overall goal of this project is to increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with verified financial need. There are five specific aims: 1) build on existing relationships to form a shared STEM community between Samford University and local community colleges, and to promote recruitment of transfer students, including from groups underrepresented in STEM; 2) leverage existing student support programs and services at Samford University to maximize student retention and graduation; 3) promote student academic success through training in self-regulation of learning; 4) increase transfer students’ first-semester GPA at Samford to be more similar to their community college GPA; and 5) employ an existing STEM foundations course on career building to maximize the number of students entering STEM careers or graduate education. Many transfer students, including those entering Samford University, struggle with a post-transfer decrease in GPA sometimes called “transfer shock.” To mitigate this decrease, the project features a three-stage “Boost Sequence” of experiences, including a summer metacognition/career development workshop, orientation, and transfer success seminar, and a first semester STEM course to strengthen preparation in programming or chemistry. The Boost Sequence is intended to support both academic performance and metacognitive skill development. The impact of the Boost Sequence will be evaluated by comparing post-transfer GPA and metacognitive skills of Scholars with comparable non-Scholar peers. It is expected that helping students gain skills to control their own learning will increase their academic success as measured by GPA and support persistence to graduation. Project results will be disseminated by website, in publications, and at disciplinary and educational conferences. This project is funded by NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Susan Carson
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Samford University
United States
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