Social Capital and Its Relationship to Success of OSU STEM Leaders Program Students

Project No.
1432810
PI Name
Kevin Ahern
Institution
Oregon State University



Abstract 1

Social Capital and Its Relationship to Success of OSU STEM Leaders Program Students

Presentation Type
Poster
Team
Kevin Ahern, Oregon State University Sophie Pierszalowski, Oregon State University Shane Brown, Oregon State University Devlin Montfort, Oregon State University Julie P. Martin, Clemson University


Need

Our grant is focused on improving the success of under-represented minorities and persistence to graduation in STEM disciplines at OSU. Little is known of the relationship between the extent of social capital of under-represented students and success in STEM disciplines. If there is a relationship we are able to uncover, knowledge about it will help us to 1) identify students more likely to be successful; 2) provide a positive action that we can direct at under-represented students that may enhance their chances of success.

Goals

The overarching goal of this research project is to determine the relationship, if any, of the extent of program students' social capital network and their persistence to graduation in STEM disciplines at OSU. This is the primary goal of this project. The goal of the OSU STEM Leaders program itself is to employ published high impact practices as tools to increase persistence to graduation of under-represented minorities in STEM disciplines at OSU. For the OSU STEM Leaders program, the activities include 1) undergraduate research; 2) stipends; 3) peer mentors; 4) U-Succeed orientation class; and 5) workshops on topics related to success. For this study, the primary activities are 1) questionnaires for program participants and students in control groups and 2) interviews.

Approach

a. The goals of this project are achieved by tabulating, analyzing, and assessing data provided by answers of program participants and control group students to questionnaires and interviews that measure the extent of their social capital network.
b. As noted above, our approaches include a survey questionnaire and personal interviews.
c. Students involved in the study will include program participants (study group) and students who are non-program STEM students (control group). This control group will include students who are under-represented in STEM disciplines, but not in the OSU STEM Leaders program and majority STEM students not in the OSU STEM Leaders program.

Outcomes

a. We anticipate our findings will allow us to determine the relationship, if any, between social capital of students under-represented in STEM disciplines and their graduation rates in STEM disciplines.

b. Key deliverables will be an evaluation of the importance of social capital for predicting success of under-represented students in STEM disciplines.

c. We anticipate using knowledge we gain to improve the success of under-represented students in STEM disciplines.

Broader Impacts

a. The aim of our program is to improve the success of under-represented students in STEM disciplines. Findings from our work will be applicable far beyond the borders of OSU and could benefit students at many universities. Since our program was inspired by the PCAST report to increase the number of STEM graduates in the U.S. by one million students, our results could have direct impact on helping to achieve this goal.

b. The impacts of our project have not yet been realized, since it is only getting started.

c. The study is only now getting underway. We will disseminate our results when we obtain them in peer-reviewed journals and at relevant national meetings.

Unexpected Challenges

The only unexpected challenges we have encountered to date have been issues related to financial need of program participants and mechanisms for paying students. NSF stipends paid to participants can affect their financial aid and since these students are at risk for financial reasons, balancing this has been very challenging. To address the issue, we have used state funds to pay students by payroll instead of stipend.

Citations

None to date. Our program is only starting its second year.