The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program (HSI Program) aims to enhance undergraduate STEM education and build capacity at HSIs. Projects supported by the HSI Program will also generate new knowledge on how to achieve these aims. This project at the City University of University of New York (CUNY City College) will advance the aims of the HSI Program by building a social media platform designed specifically for students entering, continuing, or transferring into STEM majors. Students transitioning from high school to college, from two-year institutions to four-year institutions, or from lower division to upper division coursework face academic and logistical challenges. These challenges include navigating a new environment, learning the mechanics of registration and other campus activities, and dealing with changes in rigor and pacing in coursework. These challenges can be amplified at urban institutions, where commuting and working outside the classroom present added obstacles. CUNY City College plans to address these challenges by building a social media platform for students entering, continuing, or transferring into STEM majors. The platform will be designed as a "one-stop" location for academic support, tutoring, and social interaction. The platform is envisioned to also promote networking and interaction for students with limited time on campus due to commuting or work needs. The platform will also be a home for virtual tutoring and will list resources and contact information (e.g. financial aid) to connect students with what they need on campus. It is expected that this platform will improve student success and retention in STEM, thus contributing to increasing diversity in STEM fields.

A social media platform that supports community-building and information sharing interventions may assist students at critical transitions by improving access to critical services for students who attend urban commuter schools. Successfully addressing culture shock is expected to result in higher retention and graduation rates for these students. This hypothesis will be explored by creating the CUNY City College STEM Communities platform: a custom-built, open-source, social networking platform intended to augment and extend the outreach and support services that CUNY City College offers to incoming students, transfer students, and students transitioning from lower division to upper division coursework. CUNY City College STEM Communities is also expected to draw these students into social and informational interactions that will mitigate the effects of culture shock, resulting in increased retention and graduation rates. CUNY City College STEM Communities has four objectives: 1) to explore the degree to which a custom-constructed social media platform can build and extend student engagement opportunities at multiple levels with peers, mentors, and student organizations to mitigate culture shock; 2) to explore the degree to which that platform can also improve student educational achievement and workforce preparation through the mobilization of "affinity groups" focused on experiential learning, research, entrepreneurship, student clubs, and gateway classes that are supported by near-peer Course Connectors, enhanced by academic support during flexible hours, and buttressed by teaching assistants and faculty; 3) to increase cohort members' self-efficacy and internal locus of control through an online social belonging intervention; and 4) to contribute to the literature on factors producing and affecting campus culture shock, particularly at urban commuter colleges, and its mitigation through the use of social media. The results of this research will identify factors that contribute to the cultural shock in transitioning underrepresented STEM students and will explore the effectiveness of social media to mitigate it.

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 Human Resource Development (HRD)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Ellen Carpenter
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CUNY City College
New York
United States
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