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The major goal of the HHMI program at Lehigh University is to significantly improve STEM retention in bioscience-related fields among at-risk students, underrepresented students, and the full STEM population. Our program will accomplish this objective by integrating extensive research engagement in team settings, key support services from various campus offices, and an intensive mentoring structure. The positive impact of prior HHMI-supported initiatives that accelerated development of an interdisciplinary culture in life science education and research guided our plan. These student-focused initiatives, which utilized a multidisciplinary approach, included curricular reforms, a 10-week intensive summer research institute, and broadened access to life science through a web accessible survey course. Two major elements that build on these now institutionalized changes in life science education are at the center of the new program:

BIOCONNECT: COMMUNITY COLLEGE COLLABORATIONS TO IMPROVE STEM RETENTION. Articulation agreements can facilitate the successful transfer of CC students into a university environment. The objectives of BIOCONNECT are to: (1) provide Lehigh-sponsored undergraduate bioscience-related interdisciplinary research, mentoring, and STEM student community building experiences during the academic year and summer for community College STEM students in preparation for graduation and/or successful transfer through launch of the BioConnect program; and (2) assimilate transfer students from Community Colleges into the undergraduate research community culture. We expect that BIOCONNECT will increase the likelihood that Community College students will be retained in their STEM major, advance to graduation or transfer, and, for those students that transfer to Lehigh University, graduate in STEM.

The Rapidly Accelerated Research Experience (RARE) is a pre-admission-to-graduation science immersion program. The program incorporates four dimensions that are essential for success with students that are significantly underrepresented in STEM: an innovative curriculum, a strong sense of identity as part of a community of scholars, addressing cultural issues that can contribute to low success rates, and an understanding of the commitment required to excel in STEM. RARE will test whether an evidence-based, 4-year approach will improve retention in STEM among at-risk and underrepresented students. We will also learn about curricular and non-curricular practices that, later in the proposed project, can be scaled to a broader STEM student population.

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Neal Simon, Ph.D.
Lehigh University
Department of Biological Sciences
111 Research Drive, Iacocca Hall
Bethlehem, PA 18015-3094


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