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National Science Foundation awards Texas State $1.5 million for STEM learning practices

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
August 26, 2014

The LBJ Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education & Research at Texas State University has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop, implement and research the effects of a set of cohesive STEM instruction and support practices.

The project, Texas State STEM Rising Stars, is a four-year collaborative effort among faculty in the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education with a goal of improving overall STEM undergraduate student retention and graduation rates with special attention paid to increasing representation of underserved populations. 

"The Texas State Rising Stars initiative will support the creation of a more supportive and inclusive learning environment for STEM students and faculty at Texas State University," said Araceli Martinez Ortiz, assistant professor in the College of Education and director of the LBJ Institute. "It is an example of the collaborative nature of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research, and evidence of the support of senior administrators and Texas State’s institutional commitment to improving recruitment and retention of underrepresented student groups in STEM."

Ortiz heads up the cross-disciplinary effort, which is committed to producing significant improvements in freshman and sophomore major retention rates and graduation rates in chemistry, computer science, engineering, engineering technology, mathematics and physics. Specifically, Texas State STEM Rising Stars aims to increase the overall second-year STEM undergraduate student retention rate; increase the retention rate of Hispanic and African American STEM majors; increase the overall representation of Hispanic and African American students (combined) in STEM majors; and increase the number of female students completing undergraduate STEM degrees.

Texas State's record of project success as a Hispanic Serving Institution is expected to contribute to the successful implementation of STEM Rising Stars.  

"I am very proud of my engineering degree and industry experience and am passionate about teaching, motivating and supporting students to prepare well and persist in their preparation for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Ortiz said. "As a first generation Latina college graduate, I understand some of the many challenges that STEM students face in their undergraduate college lives--but also of the many opportunities for career success and enjoyment."

The project goals will be achieved by adaptation and implementation of best practices that address student academic and social needs while fostering instructional change in this field. The proposed program is guided by an established theoretical framework that addresses academic and social integration elements and informed by contextual data. Some of the contextual factors considered in the new research efforts by participating researchers include: faculty and peer relationships, family and community support, and academic sense of self. By establishing communities of learners at both the student and faculty levels, the Texas State STEM Rising Stars program aims to make a significant and sustainable impact on the overall STEM learning culture at Texas State.