GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 187-2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


WETZEL, Laura Reiser1, DEBURE, Kelly R2 and MAUCH, Holger2, (1)Marine Science & Geosciences, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33711, (2)Computer Science, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33711,

The Quantitative Excellence in Science and Technology (QuEST) Scholars Program facilitates the academic success of transfer students who enter Eckerd College intending a STEM major. Our primary goal is to create and nurture cohorts of STEM transfer students through specifically designed and carefully monitored academic and social-support activities.

Transfer students face unique challenges as they transition to a new institution. Each student has completed a unique set of courses, requiring careful faculty mentoring to plan the successful completion of a STEM degree. Transfer students also lack the advantages of a natural cohort of peers, unlike native freshmen who are typically taking the same classes at the same stages throughout their undergraduate careers.

To address these issues, we created a Scientific Inquiry Seminar, one course extending over two semesters, for all new QuEST Scholars. The discussion-based course included a wide range of topics, from ethical issues and cutting-edge research in science, to more mundane topics such as graduation requirements, career planning, and resume building.

To foster success for all STEM majors, we improved the peer-tutoring program for students struggling with quantitative subjects presented in math and science courses. We unified peer-tutors for computer science, physics, mathematics, and chemistry under one umbrella with a dedicated faculty member to oversee the program and developed an on-line reporting system to track individual sessions. Tutor development seminars were held regularly. Building a learning community among students and tutors was one of the most frequently mentioned positive outcomes of the tutoring program, according to exit interviews with tutors.

We are in the fifth year of our NSF grant (S-STEM #1154520) and have provided scholarship support for 28 undergraduates, including 15 who intended to major in Marine Science and one in Geosciences. Average awards are $8,000 per year and are renewable based on continued progress as a STEM major and unmet financial need. Ten students received scholarships until graduating with a bachelor’s degree, 10 are still receiving support as STEM majors, and 8 left Eckerd and/or switched to a non-STEM major prior to graduation. We compare these results to those of native freshmen choosing STEM majors.