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Dominican Receives NSF Grant to Support Retention and Grad Rates in STEM Classes

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dominican University has received a five-year $526,892 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build capacity and enhance pedagogy and holistic supports in undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. The grant, which is part of more than $45 million in NSF funding to 31 Hispanic Serving-Institutions (HSIs) across the country, will bolster Dominican's efforts to increase retention and graduation rates of undergraduate students pursuing STEM degrees. Through this grant, Dominican is expected to receive additional NSF funding totaling nearly $1.5 million over the next five years. 

 "Research has shown that early success can be crucial to student retention and long-term success in STEM fields," said Dr. Christopher Anderson, associate professor of biology and principal investigator for the grant. "This grant will help Dominican implement teaching and student support practices designed to increase the success of undergraduates in early STEM courses. We plan to create a robust intervention program to help our students persist in their pursuit of careers in the sciences."

Using NSF funding, Dominican plans to launch in fall 2019 a STEM Gateway program designed to enhance student engagement in introductory biology, chemistry and mathematics classes. The grant will also fund 2-week residential STEM Summer Bridge experiences beginning in 2020. This orientation program will help prepare entering freshmen who have expressed an interest in science for success in college-level STEM courses.

"Most attrition in STEM fields occurs at the transition between introductory-level and advanced coursework," said Dr. Tina Taylor-Ritzler, associate professor of psychology and a co-principal investigator for the grant.  "We believe that our grant was approved by the NSF because we proposed an innovative, holistic set of best practice interventions that will work in concert with each other to help all STEM students, not just those who are struggling."

The grant will fund the appointment of a STEM learning specialist who will work with Dominican's newly created Department of Student Success and Engagement to implement the grant activities and connect students with university and community resources designed to facilitate their academic, social and emotional success. The grant provides robust funding for undergraduate student employees to work as embedded tutors in introductory STEM classes.

Throughout the grant period, this project will investigate the extent to which the summer bridge program, embedded tutoring, inclusive pedagogy and case management improve academic performance and persistence of STEM students.

Other co-principal investigators for the project include Paul Simpson, director for civic learning, and Chad Rohman, interim dean of the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences.