Breakout sessions A:
Programs that work
NSF STEM Talent Expansion Program (NSF STEP) at Union

Breakout sessions: A
Programs that work
NSF STEM Talent Expansion Program (NSF STEP) at Union College

Saturday, September 6, 2003
2:30 - 3:25 pm

Charlotte Borst, Dean of Arts and Sciences- Union College

Union College's successful awarding of an NSF-STEP grant was predicated on building on two proven strengths. The first was our understanding of serious advancements in the understanding of student learning. New pedagogies, including "collaborative learning," "hands on investigation" and "just in time" teaching, coupled with increasingly improved and accessible technology in and outside of the classroom, have created a new learning paradigm for the relationship between faculty and students. As a liberal arts college with engineering, we encourage faculty to create a learning environment (or "community of learners") in which to explore subjects and gain critical thinking skills. Our second strength was our strong foundation of education and support for disadvantaged students. The shift in the way we teach has helped faculty better address differences in student learning styles, but we know that these styles do not eliminate the barriers to learning caused by differences in academic preparation. Students who lack skills and the ability for independent learning are at particular risk in STEM disciplines. Discouraged and frustrated, student will lose interest in STEM courses, and we lose the ability to provide a workforce educated in the STEM disciplines that will meet the needs of an increasingly technological and science-driven workplace.

Our program builds on seven approaches. In priority, they include: 1.supplemental learning; 2. communication skills development; 3. career exploration; 4. internship/shadow possibilities; 5. alumni mentoring; 6. earlier summer research experiences; 7. a five-year curriculum for selected engineering students. These program goals are targeted toward STEM majors, and we are piloting a small group of students with high attrition rates in STEM disciplines. We already do many of these activities in our Academic Opportunity Program, which is a small, highly-targeted program. This planning grant is being used to determine how we might enhance and extend these programs to any STEM student who wishes to take advantage of them.

*PI on NSF STEP grant: "Enhancing STEM Majors at Union College"