New UAlbany Center Confronts National Workforce Shortage of Science and Technology Graduates
Contact(s): Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150
The Center is supported by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
According to the U.S. Government Accounting Office the number of degrees obtained in U.S. universities in engineering, biological sciences, and technical fields has declined from 32 percent of all college students in the mid-1990s to 27 percent by 2004.
"The U.S. economy today is confronted with increased competition from around the globe, particularly in scientific fields," said Interim President George Philip. "The Center's goal will be to help invigorate the nation's scientific workforce by addressing the challenge of low enrollment in STEM majors."
"We designed the CARSS program to curb defections to non-STEM fields of our science and math majors," said Center director and associate professor of organic chemistry Rabi Musah. "We've identified and designed intervention strategies tailor-made to address the issues associated with poor performance in gateway science and math courses, which our data showed were the single most important reason for our decreasing numbers of science and math majors."
Musah conceived of the Center with her colleagues and co-principal investigators Hua Shi and Denise McKeon of the Biological Sciences Department. The Center's goals include an assessment process to provide information through published work for other academic institutions to increase STEM graduation rates. The Center specializes in tutoring and mentoring services for all STEM majors. It includes career counseling, faculty mentoring, and a recruitment component that involves consultation with student families, and various financial incentives.
A highlight of the CARSS program is the "Family Summer Camp" for prospective university students from Albany High School who plan to study in STEM field areas. The collaborative Family Summer Camp component targets recruitment and retention of students mainly from historically under-served populations, and facilitation of their retention in STEM fields throughout their college career at UAlbany.
"The reviewers and program directors that considered the University at Albany's proposal were impressed with their prior work in this area, their strong commitment to this project, and the multiple implementation strategies. They felt that the project will succeed and will likely increase the number of STEM graduates from the University, which is the main goal of NSF's STEP program," said Russell Pimmel, Division of Undergraduate Education program manager at NSF.
This Center builds on the University's three established programs that have demonstrated success in increasing the number of undergraduates enrolled in STEM fields:
- The Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) serves more than 100 students per year, offering supplemental academic advisement; personal counseling and career planning. The program has maintained a 30 percent or greater increase in graduation rates among STEM major participants within the first five years of its implementation.
- The Project Excel program provides academic supportive assistance designed to increase the retention and graduation rates of low income, first generation, and disabled students. It has produced a 55 percent increase in graduation rates for STEM majors since its inception seven years ago.
- The Science Research in the High School program involves high school students as bona fide members of the research community, using UAlbany faculty as mentors.
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