Increasing Persistence of All Students in STEM

Here we describe major components fostering persistence, in "pipeline order."

The Science in the City (SITC) seminar (initiated in 2006) pairs pre-service teachers (education students from Barnard and Columbia) with in-service teachers (from local elementary and middle schools) in seminar and classroom settings. Its goal is to help future and current teachers develop effective, relevant teaching strategies that use the rich resources of New York City to spark the scientific imaginations of public school students. A partnership between Barnard's Education Program, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and local NYC public schools, SITC includes weekly sessions at Barnard, AMNH field trips, and the implementation of new science lessons in school classrooms. Ongoing assessment is conducted through a NYC Department of Education-approved study. The assessments have produced multiple publications and meeting presentations. SITC is a signature offering of Barnard's Education Program and served as a model for a new Math in the City seminar offered for the first time at Barnard in 2011.

As part of Barnard's New York State-funded Higher Education Opportunities Program's (HEOP) summer bridge program for incoming students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, the Hughes Science Pipeline Project (HSPP) provided support by covering the teacher stipends in biology, chemistry, mathematics, psychology, and statistics for seventeen years. Although not specifically directed at the sciences, HEOP has had great success: HEOP students have declared science majors in greater frequency than the overall Barnard population.

Every year since 1992, the Intercollegiate Partnership (ICP), in collaboration with LaGuardia Community College, has brought sixteen community college students to the Barnard campus for a five-week summer program. Two science courses (co-taught by Barnard and LaGuardia faculty) are offered, in addition to extensive writing tutorials, counseling, and workshops that prepare the students for their transition to four-year institutions. Participants may later enroll in selected science and math courses at Barnard and Columbia (tuition and fees are waived by Barnard). Four students from each cohort complete a ten-week internship in a Barnard faculty lab the following summer. The majority of ICP participants have been women, underrepresented minorities, and/or first-generation students. Annual narrative surveys reveal that the ICP strengthens participants' academic skills and confidence as well as their interest in science. Tracking reveals that 83% of past participants subsequently enrolled at a baccalaureate-granting institution; 88% of those students declared majors in the natural sciences, health-related programs, mathematics, computer science, engineering, or statistics. In addition, at least 22% of the students entering baccalaureate institutions subsequently enrolled in graduate programs in these fields.

Since 2005, the HSPP has developed three seminar courses that introduce first-year and sophomore students to the science culture at Barnard. The year-long Research Apprenticeship Seminar (RAS) focuses on discussion topics that capture students' interest in the sciences. Each semester, students also spend one month shadowing an older research intern in a Barnard faculty lab. Based on the participants' subsequent activities, the RAS fosters the retention of students in the sciences: a majority of former research apprentices have subsequently participated in summer and/or academic research projects with support from the HSPP as well as other funding sources; most have declared majors in math or science. The Biology Journal Club (BJC) introduces eight to sixteen first-year students with a strong background in biology to the scientific literature. In weekly seminars, students read and discuss recent scientific publications. Student evaluations reveal positive outcomes: participants appreciate the non-competitive atmosphere and in-depth discussions of the scientific process with other like-minded young scientists. In spring 2014, the HSPP implemented the Research Methods Seminar (RMS), co-taught by biology and chemistry faculty, for up to sixteen sophomores enrolled in mid-level biology and chemistry laboratory courses. The seminar serves as a bridge between introductory classes and hands-on research experiences, strengthening this connection by providing sophomores with knowledge and skills to facilitate their entry into a lab. Its specific objective is to increase the number of students undertaking research by the summer after sophomore year. The seminar includes discussions of laboratory safety (personal protective equipment, waste disposal, and emergency response procedures) as well as searching and reading the scientific literature, using literature databases, scientific ethics, best practices for documenting laboratory work, and strategies for avoiding plagiarism. The seminar also focuses on students' writing and oral presentation skills.

To cultivate interest in STEM careers, the HSPP has supported career panels, workshops and lectures over the years. The Office of Career Development (OCD) has organized numerous "Career Panels" at which guest speakers provide information about science-related careers to our students. Attendance at career panels varied between three and one hundred students, faculty, and staff. The panels encourage them to pursue internships, provide a preview of specific careers, and help them focus on possible future careers. The HSPP's annual Distinguished Women in Science lecture series invites an outstanding female scientist to give a lecture to the students, faculty and the general public, followed by a dinner in honor of the research apprentices, research interns and their faculty mentors. This annual event increases the sense of community among students and faculty scientists at Barnard, providing an opportunity to gather informally to discuss the topic of the lecture and other concerns about scientific research.

The HHMI-funded activities that increase persistence of students in the sciences are open to all Barnard students. Recruiting is accomplished either through open calls about these opportunities (SITC, ICP, RAS, BJC, RMS, and Research Internships) or by invitation (Research Internships). HEOP students are selected from the pool of entering students (based on NY State Department of Education criteria), and they select which science courses they wish to take during the summer before they matriculate. Participating students are encouraged to join as many HSPP-sponsored activities as their schedules allow. A majority of Barnard science faculty (biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics & astronomy, and psychology) have participated in the HSPP's retention-focused activities. A core group in biology and chemistry have offered most of the new or revised courses; a broader array of faculty have hosted research interns and RAS participants in their labs.