2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 272-2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


MAHER SOBHANI, Barbra, Science, Red Rocks Community College, 13300 W. Sixth Ave, Littleton, CO 80228 and COX, Liz, Red Rocks Community College, 13300 . Sixth Ave, Lakewood, CO 80228, barbra.sobhani@rrcc.edu

Increasing accessibility to STEM pathways and innovating retention strategies for low-income, first generation college students are important aspects of increasing diversity in STEM. Community colleges are ideally placed to provide access to STEM careers to a highly diverse population. Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) has begun a multi-pronged effort to address this, including faculty cultural competency training, developing a student STEM Scholar program and increasing access to student research and internships. RRCC has built a robust transfer pathway for STEM students in Colorado through diligent development of articulation agreements, course alignments and recruiting. Our next step is to increase our retention of diverse populations. Cultural competency training for STEM faculty focuses on recognizing and understanding the difference between low and high context learners, as identified through a self-inventory (Weissmann and Ibarra 2015) and incorporating classroom strategies to reduce stereotype threat. We have also developed new, introductory level classes to attract new students to STEM, highlighting topics such as astrobiology, rover building, natural disasters and climate change.

In addition to faculty development and curriculum innovation, RRCC introduced the STEM Scholar Program in 2014 to provide students with community building, mentoring, training, and opportunity. Students participate in mentoring and career exploration workshops, outreach activities, and campus STEM activities and clubs. Scholars are eligible for competitive STEM Summer Scholar research positions. This program is a paid research experience for RRCC students in the Engineering Transfer Program. It places motivated STEM students in engaging, undergraduate research on either Colorado School of Mines or CU-Boulder campus for a 10-week, summer research experience. We had seven successful placements in 2015. This year, we are expanding these opportunities to include experiential learning field classes, and climate, atmospheric and aerospace related internships. Opening and maintaining STEM pathways for a diverse population requires institutional change and broad-based support from faculty and administration.