Attracting and retaining Latina women in an undergraduate biology program

Johnston et al. / Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research / December 2021

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Many efforts have been made to enroll more women and other underrepresented groups into STEM fields, including the current NSF-funded S-STEM (S-4) program at our University. S-4 aims to increase enrollment and retention in STEM majors through student activities such as a summer transition to University program, the development of a Learning Community, seminars to expose students to STEM graduate programs and careers, and student support workshops. The S-4 scholarship program is an innovative response to the needs of first generation college students in STEM. While recruitment for this program was more challenging than expected, student retention in the program has exceeded expectation. This study tracked students' science identity over the first year in the S-4 program to learn about the types of support that contributed to a science identity and persistence. Scholars were surveyed and interviewed at the end of the summer transition to university program in the first year of our grant, and again at the end of their first year of coursework. In addition to the financial supports, peer collaborations and support groups contributed to the success of students from underrepresented groups. Interviews indicated growth in confidence and STEM identity.