Montgomery College (MC) is one of the largest community colleges in Maryland, with three campuses surrounding the metropolitan DC area. The college was established in 1946 and has graduated almost half a million students since its opening.
The primary goal of the proposed project is to establish a systematic and comprehensive approach towards increasing the number of qualified and culturally diverse community college students who graduate with an associate’s degree and / or transfer to four-year institutions as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors. MC’s proposed Graduate and Transfer STEM Talent Expansion Program (GT STEP) will facilitate this STEM pathway by drawing on the strengths of its three campuses to form a cohesive and efficient STEM team learning environment. GT STEP adapts three proven strategies for recruiting and retaining students in STEM majors: early undergraduate research; math tutoring to prepare students for calculus; and curriculum revision in gateway STEM courses. Faculty development activities will be conducted on all three campuses to ensure that faculty are engaged in this effort and are provided the resources and support necessary to implement the GT STEP strategies. The implementation of the GT STEP strategies will contribute to increasing opportunities for at-risk, underrepresented and veteran populations to pursue STEM majors and transition to the workforce in STEM careers. Major outcomes of the GT STEP program include increasing the annual number of STEM associate degrees awarded and STEM student transfers to baccalaureate institutions, by a minimum of 328 students (10% graduation rate and 7% transfer rate increases annually), over the five-year grant period. In addition, the program will include both recruitment and retention strategies and activities that will support the main goal of increasing the number of STEM graduates and transfers. Additionally, the GT STEP program will build capacity and infrastructure through curriculum development and faculty development in strategies proven to increase STEM retention.
At the core of the Montgomery College GT STEP program is its emphasis on: 1) recruitment of high school seniors from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), current MC non-STEM major undergraduate students, veterans from the college’s “Combat 2 College” program and their families, and displaced workers, with a special emphasis on targeting underrepresented minorities; 2) retention efforts composed of early undergraduate research experiences, enhanced academic advising, faculty and peer mentoring, and use of web-based social media to facilitate communication among students and faculty; and 3) establishing a cohesive STEM faculty community through curriculum improvement, and faculty and staff professional development linked by workshops, conferences and a virtual meeting place to discuss best practices in STEM education. These initiatives will contribute towards the establishment of a campus-wide STEM education learning environment. The creation of a GT STEP community based on the strengths of MC’s three campuses will produce a coordinated expansive three-pronged, college-wide approach that will ease the STEM student’s journey through the GT STEP program. Project partners also include local four-year Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) such as the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and the Universities at Shady Grove, creating a seamless pipeline of educational opportunities to increase STEM majors, graduates, and transfers.
The program is designed to achieve far-reaching impact beyond increasing the number of STEM majors and graduates. The project will place particular emphasis on facilitating a significant number of underrepresented minority and non-traditional students (such as veterans and displaced workers) through the GT STEP pipeline. The program will not only build capacity in the workforce but will also train students to become competitive in a scientific and technologically-driven global economy. The development of successful strategies that address recruitment and retention issues common to students early in their academic STEM education will be disseminated via conferences, workshops, webinars, and publications. Additionally, the GT STEP program will provide a national model by which veterans and displaced workers can be redirected into the STEM disciplines and workforce.
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