Attract Diverse Students to STEM

What is the current demographic situation? »

Use Culturally Appropriate Approaches

Use Societal Issues

Societal issues like environmental justice, sustainability, and environmental ethics are of great interest to today's students, and underrepresented minority students are no exception. Helping students feel some agency in addressing these inherently interdisciplinary issues provides a great hook to engage students in real-life inquiry in the classroom.

Engage with K-12 Students

One problem with attracting students to STEM majors is that by the time they reach college age, they may have lost interest in science and math, been turned off by a bad experience, or been convinced that they aren't good at them. One way to counteract this is to target resources at the middle and high school years to help keep young people engaged in science by doing science. College STEM departments have found success by sponsoring science fairs, running summer science and math camps or field trips, and implementing dual credit programs with local high schools. These and other similar strategies increase the number of students who reach college with positive science and math experiences and the ability to visualize themselves in a STEM career.

Capitalize on Introductory Courses

An increasing body of research is pointing to the important role of introductory courses in drawing students into a major or driving them away. The quality of teaching and faculty engagement with students can be very influential in bringing students into the major. One study has gone so far as to call this effect "majoring in a professor." Conversely, a faculty member who does nothing but lecture and doesn't actively engage students in an introductory course can turn potentially interested students away, not only from majoring in that subject but from science as a whole.

Given that students of color cite attention from and interaction with faculty as one major contributing factor in their persisting in a STEM major, it is likely that quality introductory courses are even more important for attracting them. To capitalize on this effect, departments and divisions should know who their best teachers are and convince them to teach introductory courses.