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Our goal is to increase the percentage of at-risk students who earn biological sciences degrees by 10% or more within five years, thus achieving the 2012 PCAST report recommendations. Although a student's academic performance is the major predictor of persistence, their psychosocial characteristics and socioeconomic factors are also an important part of the persistence equation. This proposal's Pathways to Success Program will create a 'Vital Signs' reporting system that integrates and responds to student performance metrics and a Peer Mentor Network that enhances student engagement.

VITAL SIGNS: Students will receive a weekly Vital Signs report that report that: 1) collates course performance data and progress toward degree; 2) provides prescriptions for success or congratulations for good performance; and 3) prompts students to engage in metacognition and reflection that will foster self-awareness and self-efficacy. In addition to monitoring course-level performance, we will also examine course-taking patterns for evidence that students have lost interest in their stated major and help these students develop strategies to remain in their original major or to successfully transition to a new STEM success pathway. Students who do not register for classes in a timely manner or who withdraw from all classes at any time will be personally contacted so that we can determine the cause and suggest solutions. If we are unable to retain the student, we will help the student make specific plans for returning to the U or transitioning to a new institution and continue to contact the student several times a year to offer additional support. In this way, we can continue to support the student's success, even if that success is at another institution. We will integrate Vital Signs and progress to degree information into the University's existing APLUS Advising System so that this information will be available to the student's entire advising team.

Peer Mentoring Network: To create a socially supportive environment for success, students will be integrated into a hierarchical peer mentoring program in which the peer mentors are heavily recruited from the at-risk student population. This focus on leadership development for at-risk students is based on our success in the Dean's Scholars Program in which at-risk students who take on leadership positions earn higher term GPAs and graduate at higher rates than the overall average of their peers. Consequently, we intend to recruit most of our at-risk students into paid or volunteer peer mentor positions, where they will receive leadership training and mentoring, as well as an increased level of interaction with faculty and staff that will positively impact their success. In freshman year, peer mentored groups will prepare an artifact that represent the group's response to the First Year Challenge such as, 'How can biology save the world?' The teams will submit artifacts, such a photos or videos that represent their answers. The winning entries will be featured in college websites and other venues. In the second year, students can choose to join peer-facilitated study groups or other special interest groups. Upper division students will have access to study groups, but also can establish their own ad hoc teams to tackle a Grand Challenge posed by the College. For example, one challenge might be 'How can the college support the success of all students?' Winning recommendations will be implemented by the College.

We expect that the Vital Signs system of continuous assessment, feedback, and metacognition, together with the peer mentoring network, will increase students' academic performance and engagement, supporting our goal of a 10% increase in biological sciences degrees. This system will also reveal specific factors that enhance or inhibit persistence of our majors that may provide new insights relevant for other persistence initiatives.

For More Information

Laurie Parker, PhD
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
7-140 MCB 420 Washington Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
6126249066
llparker@umn.edu

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