Retention of Underrepresented College Students in STEM-- Abstract

By Kelly A. Rodgers, Ph.D.
University of Texas at San Antonio

This literature overview addresses several psychological factors believed to be salient in retention patterns for women and particularly ethnic minority students who are underrepresented across STEM disciplines. It provides a brief overview of recent work on college student retention, grounded in the work of Tinto (1988) and expanding Tinto’s model to specific student populations, particularly to the applicability of that literature to women and students from minority groups that are underrepresented in STEM. Then, these students’ attitudes towards their STEM programs, their self-efficacy beliefs in their ability to complete their graduate or undergraduate program, and the relationship between their self-efficacy and motivation to do so are discussed.  This discussion is followed by policy implications and concludes with suggested directions for further research.

To illustrate the experiences of women and minority students in STEM, the information sheet first begins with the case of Dena, Hispanic female undergraduate student in engineering. A brief review of the literature on minority retention in STEM is given. Dena’s story is then used to illustrate how the psychological factors involved in retention can impact students’ performance. This is followed by an overview of research-based suggestions for STEM undergraduate and graduate programs to increase the comfort, satisfaction, and ideally retention of women and ethnic minority students. Lastly, directions for future research are provided.

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Developed by The Pennsylvania State University and University of Missouri
Funded by The National Science Foundation (HRD 0120642 and HRD 0607081)