Supporting STEM Success in a Liberal Arts Context
Higher education plays a critical role in the future economic and professional success of individual students as well as the intellectual and economic health of our nation. This website synthesizes the experiences of 11 institutions striving to strengthen the undergraduate experiences in science and mathematics for all of their students. These predominantly undergraduate institutions were selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as 'Capstone Programs' for the maturity of their programming. Developed by the 11 institutions with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, this website describes these programs as well as the lessons learned on the way. Our aim is to help others aiming to adopt, adapt, or create similar programs.
In each of the sections below, we highlight the actions and ideas our synthesis revealed as most critical to success, illustrating each with examples from the participating institutions. Links to the institutional program descriptions provide more complete information for those interested in specific actions or ideas. Each institutional program description provides the full context for programs and allows exploration of the evolution of programming in a specific institutional context. About this Project and the Capstone Designation
Developing Inquiry Skills
Authentic inquiry can take place both inside and out of the official curriculum at a variety of scales. Creating an inquiry-rich curriculum and developing a stand-alone undergraduate research program are two good targets for action as well as developing the support and resources to sustain whatever effort best fits a particular institutional context.
Increasing Persistence of all Students in STEM
Fostering persistence, especially for groups of students historically underrepresented in STEM fields, requires an interlocking web of support that advances student success. These efforts welcome, engage, and support diverse students across their educational trajectories as a means of ensuring inclusive excellence.
Fostering Integrative or Interdisciplinary Learning
Training in science, engineering and mathematics content and skills is necessary, but not sufficient to prepare future leaders in STEM fields. Students must also gain experience in applying the knowledge and skills to complex, real world challenges. Capstone institutions have developed many learning pathways for achieving this in their programs as well as building the integrative capacity of their whole institutions.
Pathways to Institutional Change
For long-term sustainability, emerging initiatives need to eventually work themselves into the fabric of the institution. Program leadership will need to be strategic in their actions, collaborate and engage people across campus, identify and recruit necessary resources, and use assessment data to guide their path forward.
Despite the overwhelming similarity of approaches to changes in science education at Capstone Institutions, development and implementation is clearly dependent on institutional context. Institutional profiles allow institutions to examine the efforts made at similar institutions.