STEM Council

STEM Council

The 3 R’s of STEM: San Jacinto College Focuses On Producing More STEM Grads

The country and its economy needs more graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is by now widely acknowledged. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country will need about a million more STEM professionals than it will produce over the next decade in order to remain a world leader in science and technology. The country is facing fierce competition from abroad in producing and retaining STEM talent. According to the National Science Foundation, women only make up 24 percent of jobs in STEM fields despite making up 46 percent of the total workforce. Similarly, African Americans and Latinos each comprise 13 percent of the total workforce and only three percent in STEM fields.

Even though efforts are being made to increase diversity in STEM degree programs and careers, the statistics of today are disheartening. This showcases the need for increased attention to the lack of bright, young minority students in all STEM occupations.

But while the shortage of STEM workers is a national problem, it demands local solutions. Into that void have stepped community colleges, the ultimate local economic development engines. For several years, colleges have ramped up their STEM education efforts, striving both to create short-term certificate programs and pathways increasing the number of community college students who ultimately earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields.

Only two colleges awarded more associate degrees in science technologies than did San Jacinto in 2014, according to Community College Week’s analysis of the Top 100 Associate Degree Producers (CCWeek, Aug. 31, 2016). The college awarded 140 such degrees, a 22 percent increase over the year before.

In 2013, San Jacinto College created the STEM Council in efforts to increase the number of students enrolled in STEM programs.The efforts are built on the “three R’s”: recruit, retain, and reward.

Recruit:

When it comes to building local workforces with skills in the STEM fields, it pays to start early. San Jacinto College, located in suburban Houston, Texas, have forged partnerships with school districts to bring elementary, middle school, and high school students to campus and send college students into local elementary schools. The STEM Council also promotes partnerships between academic institutions so that teachers and community college faculty can translate research experiences into classroom activities. We showcase the possibilities for STEM careers. There are a wide range of careers and occupations in STEM that students don’t know about. We want to get their students to interact with ours. The younger students can see themselves in our student’s shoes and think about STEM careers.

Retain:

In addition to the gap between the existing workforce and STEM professionals, there is a greater disparity in the ratio of students who enroll in STEM programs and the number of students who graduate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 69 percent of associate degree students who entered STEM fields between 2003 and 2009 had left these fields by the spring semester of 2009. About half of these leavers switched their major to a non-STEM field, and the rest left STEM fields by exiting college before graduating or earning a certificate.

A service that has made a substantial difference is Open Labs, a program that has been offering additional aid to help students understand concepts outside of the actual lab for a course. The college’s Open Lab augments the existing student success centers and encourages students to drop in on Fridays to get tutoring and burnish their skills. We’re seeing a letter grade difference … for students who attend Open Labs. This as a key part of the school’s retention strategy.

San Jacinto College also encourages students to take part in research opportunities so they can put what they have learned into practice and be prepared to engage in research opportunities when they transition into 4-year institutions. The STEM Council promotes partnerships between academic institutions and industry to provide research experiences. The College partners with four year institutions such as Rice and the University of Iowa to offer different kinds of research experiences to our students. Anytime you can apply learning, that’s a critical step. When you apply learning in a real-world setting, that enhances learning, and that’s our ultimate goal.

Reward:

Finances can play a role in STEM retention and completion. Researchers have found some evidence that scholarships help to increase gpa, retention, persistence, registration, full-time enrollment, and the number of credits earned. Furthermore, these student success measures continued even after students were no longer eligible to receive funds. San Jacinto College has increased the number of STEM scholarships available to students to $190,900.00. Information on STEM internships, research opportunities, and scholarships can be found on the website at: http://www.sanjac.edu/stem-council

 

 

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