Dominican University STEM Success model to support students through critical transitions

The Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program (HSI Program) from the National Science Foundation aims to enhance undergraduate STEM education and build capacity at HSIs. In January 2019, Dominican University began a 5-year grant project titled: “Building Capacity: The Dominican University STEM Success Model to Support Students through Critical Transitions.” This $1.5 million grant project implements teaching and student supports to increase the success of undergraduates in early STEM courses.

The project has three major goals:

  • To improve STEM student achievement and transitions from the first to second year
  • To improve faculty and tutor capacity to support STEM students’ success
  • To facilitate student access to academic and nonacademic supports

The DU STEM Success project includes two separate but complementary novel interventions:

  • A STEM-focused summer bridge program (begins summer 2020) and
  • STEM gateway course pilots (began fall 2019)

Both interventions incorporate Peer-Led-Team-Learning and inclusive pedagogy approaches, including course-embedded tutors (i.e. undergraduate employees), and are supported by a STEM-dedicated case manager (i.e., a graduate social work student employee).

Grant activities provide training to participating STEM faculty and embedded tutors in the use of Peer-Led-Team-Learning, inclusive pedagogy, and how to make student success case management (SSCM) referrals. The Academic Enrichment Center at Dominican has used grant funds to hire a STEM Learning Specialist who coordinates all aspects of the project, including convening and supporting faculty through regular faculty community of practice meetings and by recruiting, hiring, training, scheduling, supervising, and administratively supporting all embedded tutors and the STEM-dedicated case manager. To generate knowledge, Dominican is investigating the extent that the summer bridge program and the STEM course pilots improve academic performance and persistence in the first year as well as strengthen student relationships, sense of community, and ability to benefit from academic supports in at-risk students.