STudent Retention Enhancement Across Mathematics and Science (STREAMS) is a $1 million STEM (or Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant from the National Science Foundation held by Bridgewater State University. The goal of STREAMS is to help more Bridgewater State University undergraduates realize their goal of successfully pursuing a degree in science and math. STREAMS was funded in May 2010, and project activities will continue for five years and is under the direction of Dr. Thomas Kling.
The initial ideas for STREAMS developed as a consequence of activities sponsored by the Project Compass Grant of the Nellie Mae Foundation. At BSU, Project Compass resources are being targeted at improving academic success, retention, and graduation rates for students of color, low-income students, and students who are the first in their families to attend college (i.e., first-generation college students). Committed and enthusiastic members of academic and student affairs have come together in a Community of Practice (COP) to oversee Project Compass efforts at the university.
On October 7 and 8, 2008, the Project Compass Community of Practice hosted a series of Faculty and Librarian receptions to share with the Bridgewater community data describing Bridgewaters students. In particular, Bridgewater faculty and staff were asked to reflect on the retention and graduation rates of low income, first generation, and minority students. Dr. Thomas Kling attended the meeting with several other science faculty members, and the science faculty tables discussions led to specific questions about STEM specific retention rates and efforts within the newly proposed College of Science and Mathematics to address deficiencies in this area.
Having worked in the University of Pittsburgh College of Engineering IMPACT Program as a Summer Bridge course instructor, Dr. Kling was interested in following up on the possibility of seeking grant support for a summer bridge program at BSU for science and math. Dr. Kling and Dr. William Lewis, former head of the Office of Institutional Diversity and PI of Project Compass, worked together with the Office of Grants and Sponsored Projects to identify possible funding sources. Having identified the NSF STEP mechanics, Dr. Lewis authorized Project Compasss research analyst in the Office of Institutional Research to determine retention and graduation rates of low income, first generation, minority, women and transfer students in science and math majors at BSU. This data became central to the STREAMS grant writing process.
In addition to STREAMS having historical roots with Project Compass during its planning stages, the STREAMS grant activities are intentionally designed to follow proven pedagogies of cultural inclusion. Dr. Kling and Dr. Ann Brunjes, director of the Office of Teaching and Learning, worked with a small group STREAMS co-Is Dr. Steven Waratuke and Dr. Jenna Mendell and Dr. Lee Torda, then the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Project Compass Community of Practice member to develop a series of best practices in STEM education carefully tailored to be culturally inclusive. Key elements of the grant are inquiry-based learning strategies, targeted support for all students delivered requiring small group work, stronger mentoring and advising, and a summer bridge program. These elements were chosen because both the STEM retention literature and broad literature on culturally inclusive pedagogies demonstrate that they are effective in increasing student learning and success towards graduation.
As STREAMS continues to move forward, it continues its tradition of working with the Office of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Teaching and Learning to promote, particularly within the College of Science and Mathematics, a mindful approach to teaching that is culturally inclusive and grounded inquiry-based group work. This mindfulness is born out of analysis of the data available on student retention within science and mathematics. Some recent high profile articles in the journal Science (in physics and biology) emphasize the connection between good teaching, inquiry-based learning strategies, and positive effects on at-risk students in the sciences.
Last Modified: March 18, 2013