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Sharing STEM Success Strategies

Community College Partnerships Make a Difference

Jan. 9, 2014

Mark S. Filowitz, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, recently presented research findings in Washington, D.C. on CSUF's community college STEM partnerships and the impact on student success.

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Mark S. Filowitz, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Cheryl Carrera, interim dean of science, mathematics and health sciences at Santa Ana College, recently demonstrated the value of the partnership between their two colleges — and the impact on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) student success.

The pair presented research findings at the Council on Undergraduate Research's STEM Education Caucus Briefing in Washington, D.C., along with Notre Dame University, Ivy Tech College and a program officer of the National Science Foundation.
 
The purpose of the briefing was to inform congressional staffers about programs helping to fix what many have termed the "leaky pipeline" — students who express an interest in STEM education programs at the higher education level and enroll in these programs, often drop out, and do not obtain their STEM degrees, said Filowitz.
 
Filowitz and Carrera presented data on the beneficial impacts of undergraduate research and supplemental instruction, known as SI.
 
"The data show that undergraduate research correlates with faster graduation rates and higher grades in STEM. The SI data at both institutions show that grades and passing rates are greatly improved while dramatically shrinking the achievement gap for student populations traditionally underrepresented in the STEM arena," said Filowitz. "STEM transfer student time to graduation has been reduced by one year with all of the efforts underway."
 
The model to fix the “leaky pipeline” and support community college transfer STEM students to Cal State Fullerton includes STEM-specific advising by faculty, peer-mentor guidance at both partnering institutions, supplemental instruction, undergraduate research experiences, financial aid and application workshops, and a rudimentary “early warning system” that attempts to provide interventions for transfer students who seem to be struggling in their STEM course work, Filowitz explained.
 
The CSUF partnership with Santa Ana College and Mount San Antonio College ended in June 2013 and was supported through the five-year, $2.5 million TEST:UP program, funded by the National Science Foundation. Filowitz led the TEST:UP grant with Martin V. Bonsangue, professor of mathematics, and Rochelle Woods, director of student academic services, at CSUF and Carrera at Santa Ana College.
 
TEST:UP produced a replicable model for two- to four-year STEM partnerships, which has been built upon through a $6 million, five-year Department of Education grant for the (STEM)2 program, now in its third year and in partnership with Citrus, Cypress and Santiago Canyon colleges, noted Filowitz.
 
José L. Cruz, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Berenecea Johnson Eanes, vice president for student affairs, are co-principal investigators on the (STEM)2 grant with project manager Maria Dela Cruz. Filowitz and Robert A. Koch, the college's acting dean, provide ongoing technical guidance for the (STEM)2 program
 
Filowitz and Carrera have been invited to present their findings at the Jan. 21-22 “Barriers and Opportunities to 2- and 4-Year Undergraduate STEM Degrees” workshop at UC Irvine. The Board on Higher Education and Workforce, the National Research Council and The National Academies are sponsoring the workshop.
 

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