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Research Highlights


 
Our research highlights provide updated information on the project's findings and implications as they become readily available. In sharing our most recent results, we hope to contribute to the growing body of literature on underrepresented undergraduate students in STEM at post-secondary institutions.
 
Working Series: STEM Intervention Programs—Emerging Themes
This series is a set of briefs in which each highlights an emerging theme from the Project STEP-UP interviews with SIP program administrators.
 
The Interest-Convergence Dilemma in STEM Education
Author: Lorenzo D. Baber
Despite decade-long efforts to diversify participation in STEM education, the proportion of STEM degrees earned by students of color remains relatively flat. Recent national policy reports have emphaized the economic benefits for increasing STEM degrees among traditionally underrepresented groups, moving away from social just language of early STEM diversity researchers. In thi STEP-UP brief, Derrick Bell's interest-convergence framework (1980) is used to consider emerging challenges for campus-level STEM diversity efforts as the primary mission for such programs moves away from educational equity and towards economic competitiveness. 
 
An Analysis of Parent Occupation and Student Choice in STEM Major (2012)
Author: Erica Harwell
Using survey data from over 4,500 students, this brief examines the parental occupations of survey respondents in STEM and non-STEM majors, as well as the level of parental influence on choice of major. The results regarding parental occupation suggest that students with at least one parent in a STEM field choose to major in STEM at a higher rate than students without parents in STEM. However, the results also suggest that students’ choice of college major is greatly influenced by their parents, regardless of parent’s occupation. The involvement of parents in the recruitment process is one additional opportunity STEM recruiters have to expose students to the opportunities a STEM major will provide. Considering the results regarding parental influence of major, reaching out to parents, who are not themselves in STEM fields, is one avenue of recruitment that is worth further exploration.
 
Influences of Students' College Attendance: The Importance of Parents (2012) 
Author: Casey George-Jackson
Drawing on undergraduate student survey data, this brief examines the sources of influences on students’ decision to attend college. The influence of parents, across multiple majors and racial and ethnic groups, is highlighted. As expected, first-generation students are less likely to cite their parents as having influenced their decision to attend college. Programmatic interventions that focus on families are offered as a way to shape students’ decision to go to college.
  
Generation Me: Influences of Students’ Choice of Major (2012)
Author: Casey George-Jackson
Using survey data from over 1,800 students, this brief explores who most influenced undergraduate students’ choice of major. The results show that many students cite themselves and their parents as having most influenced this important postsecondary decision. Differences in the sources of influence were found by gender, race/ethnicity, class status, and type of major. The results offer insight into how students’ choice of major can be influenced, and draw attention to the need for early-awareness and information program targeted towards students and their families. 
 
How We Talk About Students Matter: Re-framing Deficit Discourses of Underrepresented Students in STEM (2012)
Author: Erin T. Castro
How do administrators of STEM intervention programs describe underrepresented students? Using interview data, this paper analyzes various descriptions of underrepresented students and argues that such descriptions lend insight into the logic underlying STEM intervention efforts. Educational researcher Richard Valencia’s (1997; 2010) notion of education deficit thinking is used to identify how discourses of deficit are mobilized among administrators. The author argues that one way to help change the status quo in STEM fields – to increase representation of tradition­ally underrepresented groups – is for administrators to examine the language they use to describe women and students of color in their programs.
 
Social Engagement of Undergraduates: Do Majors Matter? (2011)
Authors: Casey George-Jackson, Erica Harwell an Derek Houston
Using survey data from over 1,881 students, this brief explores the level of social engagement that students report while enrolled in college. Particularly, this brief provides an overview of undergraduate students’ level of social engagement, while also examining possible differences by gender, race/ethnicity, and/or major. The results suggest that important differences do exist, which has implications for how we conceptualize students’ social engagement in college, as well as implications for offering programming to students to encourage and foster social engagement with campus, their peers, and the surrounding community.
 
STEM Intervention Programs at Large, Public, Research Universities: Common Trends and Challenges (2011)
Authors: Casey George-Jackson, Blanca Rincon and Lorenzo Baber
This paper summarizes current trends and challenges of STEM intervention programs at a set of large, public, research universities. Preliminary analysis of the interview data identifies the following common themes amongst STEM intervention programs at large, public, research universities: 1) Evolution of Programs; 2) Collaborative Efforts; 3) Financial Support and the Impact on Delivery of Services; 4) Assessment Efforts in Measuring Outcomes; and 5) Staff Expertise. Recommendations based on the initial findings are offered.