Foundation awards Quinnipiac grant to support and retain underrepresented minority students in STEM courses

HAMDEN – The Booth Ferris Foundation awarded Quinnipiac University $170,000 over two years to develop a program to increase retention of underrepresented minority students in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) courses.

The university will use the funding to establish the Quinnipiac STEM Enhancement Program (QSTEP) that will work to develop and revise courses, provide both social and academic engagement for students in STEM-related areas and create a permanent position to track the success of underrepresented minorities enrolled in the university’s STEM programs.

“QSTEP is part of a systematic effort to better support and include underrepresented minority students,” said Allan Smits, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Quinnipiac. “Faculty and students from all backgrounds must recognize and value inclusion, and further, be equipped to provide the ongoing engagement that will help all students realize their status as valued contributing members of the university community.” 

The university began looking for ways to better support its underrepresented minority students, who now make up 13 percent of the undergraduate student population, and over 25 percent of the STEM majors. A self-study indicated that under-represented minority students in Quinnipiac STEM fields were not staying enrolled in STEM-related programs at the same rate as other students.

“STEM fields are academically challenging, but we propose that the solution to encouraging students to persevere in STEM is not just an academic one, but a social engagement one as well,” Smits said. “QSTEP seeks to integrate academic with social engagement to create a peer-to-peer reinforcement for success and retention in STEM. Building a community of STEM learners is our goal, and we believe, based on research and experience, this is the secret to enhancing retention of STEM students.”

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