Research approach to increase student retention in STEM

Project to improve retention will consist of several phases; survey data will be collected



Olusola Adesope, Boeing distinguished professor of STEM, says there are several student success programs centered around STEM that can help minorities on-campus.

ELAYNE RODRIGUEZ, Evergreen reporter

WSU faculty hopes to increase student retention in STEM using a research approach to ensure higher rates of involvement in resources and programs available to students.

Candis Claiborn, professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, said there will be severalphases consisting of a preliminary, preparatory and two main phases for the project starting Sept. 1.

She said she will look at the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data from the engineering departments of WSU and Utah State University. She said it is to check for trends from the engineering students.

“Based on what we find in that survey data, we are going to design our own survey and distribute that into engineering students here,” she said.

They will also track the rates on women and minorities in the survey as well, Claiborn said.

She said once the information is analyzed, then small focus groups will have detailed discussions about the results.

The survey tries to measure student engagement across all campuses, she said.

Claiborn said that the NSSE results show that students who engage in “high impact” engagement activities like extracurricular academics are more than likely to stay in school and be successful.

She said she wants to dive into whether those activities are important and how to help students become more engaged.

Some students might drop out of engineering because of a loss of interest or high expectations in the courses, Claiborn said.

She said being in high impact activities keeps students mentally and intellectually involved in the program.

Olusola Adesope, Boeing distinguished professor of STEM education, said there are several reasons why students choose to leave STEM, like lack of engagement, low faculty interaction and lack of school connectedness.

Claiborn said it is important to know what specific resources different demographics are going to need to improve retention.

Adesope said there are a lot of STEM student success programs like the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, which can really help minorities on campus.

More than before, there is an emphasis on STEM retention across the nation and here at WSU as well, he said.