Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM
THE ROLE OF RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR RISING SOPHOMORES IN INCREASING ACADEMIC SUCCESS, RETENTION, AND PARTICIPATION IN EARTH SCIENCE AND OTHER STEM DISCIPLINES
Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) is a federally-designated Hispanic-Serving 4-year public commuter university located in urban Chicago. Many NEIU students are unaware of career opportunities within Earth Science/STEM. NEIU is consistently ranked as one of the most diverse universities in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, with Hispanics comprising 32% of undergraduates and African Americans making up 10%. However, in Earth Science/STEM, the percentage of underrepresented minorities is well below that university wide. Considering first-year students, the percentage of Hispanic students increases to approximately 50%. Recruiting first-year students into Earth Science/STEM is a way to increase presence of underrepresented minorities in these areas. Focusing on students who had completed their first year at NEIU, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Targeted Investigations of Research Related to Agriculture (TIERRA) Project engaged students in a 10-week summer program that included conducting a research study, activities to increase awareness of Earth Science/STEM careers, and presentations at a national scientific conference. In 2011-2012, a total of 27 students participated in the project. Increases were documented in discipline specific content knowledge, skills related to performing research, awareness of Earth Science/STEM careers, interest in STEM majors, and changes in perceptions of Earth Science careers. Tracking of students after project participation showed increased retention rates and decreased time to major declaration using participants’ incoming class as a comparison group. Participants declared majors in Earth Science/STEM at higher rates and were more likely than peers to complete additional internships/research experiences. This work demonstrates involving early career students in a research project can increase student participation in Earth Science/STEM and increase the overall success of these students as they progress toward graduation.