QSTEP sprouts from STEM grant

Quinnipiac STEM Enhancement Program receives $170,00 grant

By on October 10, 2017

The Booth Ferris Foundation awarded Quinnipiac with a $170,000 grant to further develop the University’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program over the next two years.

The grant will be used to fund Quinnipiac’s new STEM program, QSTEP (Quinnipiac STEM Enhancement Program). QSTEP strives to improve the experience that underrepresented minority students have with the STEM program.

Underrepresented minority students are not staying enrolled in STEM classes as much as other students, according to an announcement from MyQ. The reason for this is not because these students dislike the STEM program. In fact, “If anything, our student minority representation in STEM at QU is higher than expected,” according to Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Allan Smits.

Persevering through STEM classes is both an academic and social endeavor. “Prior research informs us that students require more than just academic strategies for quality learning and retention in STEM,” says Smits. This is where QSTEP comes in.

QSTEP offers underrepresented minority students newly-developed classes and a wide variety of student support options. These options include a Living Learning Community for natural science majors, faculty and peer mentoring and a Scientific Community. This will offer students opportunities to explore career paths, participate in authentic research and visit world class labs and lectures. QSTEP also offers students a permanent position in the STEM program so that their performance can be tracked.

Smits proposes two methods that can make a difference in enrollment, “One is creating a small community of STEM learners who know each other well enough to celebrate/commiserate each other’s successes/failures, and the second is to provide our students with as much access as possible to real-world examples of successful scientists and science careers to which they can aspire.”

“QSTEP is part of a systematic effort to better support and include underrepresented minority  students,” said Smits, “We, as faculty and staff, must step back a bit from our focus on formal academics to reformulate what a STEM culture should include.”

The program will impact 13 percent of the undergraduate population here at Quinnipiac, as well as 25 percent of the STEM program.

“The Booth Ferris Foundation has an interest in funding innovative strategies to improved learning,” said Smits.

For Quinnipiac as a whole, receiving this grant serves as a precedent for improving culture on campus. “If our strategies of changing the STEM culture prove to be successful, we can begin to implement these strategies to all students within STEM majors at Quinnipiac, and eventually even beyond into non-STEM majors. This process exemplifies the power of inquiry that we emphasize at Quinnipiac,” said Smits.

For underrepresented minorities, “the growing gap poses an alarming problem for both universities and the nation alike,” said Smits.

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