Georgetown College has a long history of working with socioeconomically diverse students from Kentucky and greater Appalachia. In particular, many of our undergraduates are first-generation college students. This grant allows Georgetown to develop programs that give first-generation college students many opportunities to achieve academic and leadership success in the sciences, and will increase the number and percentage of first-generation college students who pursue advanced degrees in STEM fields or teaching. A correlative goal can also be achieved to improve the science literacy of an array of learners ranging from elementary students to nonscience majors in college.
We focused the design of this grant program on providing the curricular support and social capital that first-generation students would need to take better advantage of our research and leadership opportunities in STEM disciplines. To accomplish the grant's objectives, Georgetown developed a series of five integrated, sequential components that address the unique needs of first-generation students within the context of our undergraduate science and math curriculum. These components include a precollege bridge course; science-specific sections of a two-course, first-year foundations core sequence; undergraduate science research opportunities; a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) fellows leadership program; and a collaboration of students and teachers in creating new elementary science curricula.
First-generation students often begin college at a significant disadvantage because they lack basic proficiencies, especially in quantitative and analytical reasoning. Entering first-generation Georgetown College students will begin to acquire a strong foundation for success in introductory science and math courses, as well as the cultural capital to meet college course expectations, to develop social peer networks, and to interact with faculty members. They will be able to enter research experiences and mentorships with faculty and develop as leaders and educators. The program's broad reach and impact focuses on our increased potential to attract and retain first-generation students in higher education and as majors in STEM fields, as well as to help improve their success in college and beyond. These goals become more and more important as the demographic diversity of incoming students continues to grow. Among underrepresented groups, first-generation college students (which often include other categories of underserved students) constitute perhaps the largest proportion of untapped intellectual capacity.
Student learning, as well as program outcomes and impacts, will center on a variety of areas, from acquisition of skills and mastery of concepts to community engagement and growth in life perspective. Over the course of the grant, we expect Georgetown College first-generation students to develop as leaders in research and teaching by gaining expertise in STEM fields, and learning how to transmit knowledge to students not only in a classroom but also to the community at large, thus improving the science literacy of those with whom they live and work. Moreover, the best ambassadors to reach underserved communities, and especially to bridge the cultural and socioeconomic divide between first-generation students and the academic world, are often those who have come from such a background. We will assess outcomes and impacts of each component using direct and indirect measurement tools, such as pre- and postcourse tests, major and minor selection and career-choice questionnaires, attitudinal surveys, and a diverse collection of data (retention rates, grade point average comparisons, undergraduate research participation, and others). Comparisons will be made between participating first-generation students and non-first-generation students, as well as between participating first-generation students and other on-campus groups.