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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will implement a comprehensive program of educational support, social mentoring, and faculty development to increase student persistence in completing a degree in STEM fields. The overall strategy of the program is to develop learning communities that enhance learning, teaching, mentoring, institutional climate, and culture. The centerpiece of the student learning activities will be the development and implementation of a student peer-based Mentors Program focused on improving outcomes in Calculus 1, General Chemistry 1, and Physics 1, three 'gatekeeper' courses that most engineering and science students confront in their first year. As part of the program, students will be divided into small groups, and meet weekly with an undergraduate student 'Mentor' for informal sessions on solving problems and building other important skills. The Office of Student Experience will train the mentors to help freshmen with time management, study habits, and other skills that are necessary for a successful transition into college.

A faculty learning community focused on first-year STEM education and the Mentors Program will be developed to enhance teaching, learning, and faculty interactions among the various groups (i.e. faculty-faculty, faculty-mentors, and faculty-students). Another major goal will be community building and having a positive impact on institutional climate and culture. The yearlong program will include a series of planned activities, including regular meetings, annual teaching workshop, bi-annual retreat, a STEM teaching-related seminar series, and social activities.

It is anticipated that the combination of the Mentors Program and the faculty learning communities will create an institutional environment conducive to enhanced motivation for learning, teaching, and mentoring, with tangible results in the form of increased student persistence in STEM disciplines.

We will measure the success of our program by determining whether student grades in 'gateway' courses increase, and on a longer-term, by their persistence rate in STEM fields. The results of frequent assessments will be integrated into ongoing program development. Results and best practices generated will be disseminated to provide a model for other institutions to emulate.

For More Information

Wilfredo Colón, Ph.D.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180-3590
518/276-2515
colonw@rpi.edu

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