S01: Strengths-based STEM Interventions for Underrepresented Students: Understanding Strong Program Elements and Student Barriers

Chair: Phillip Bowman—University of Michigan

Strengths-Based STEM Interventions: Meyerhoff Scholars Program and Beyond

Kenneth Maton, Mariano R. Sto, Domingo, Patricia Esparza, Rukiya Widerman, and Freeman A. Hrabowksi, III—all of University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Increasing the academic success of underrepresented students (URS) in the STEM fields is a pressing national priority. Progress in this area both contributes to national competitiveness in the global economy and promotes our country’s social justice agenda. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is an evidence-based and highly successful strengths-based intervention program that contributes to these priorities. As a national model, the Meyerhoff Program’s radiating influence at UMBC and on campuses around the country can help to further clarify core supportive elements of an exemplary strengths-based STEM intervention for URS. Kenneth Maton et al.’s presentation summarizes key aspects of the Meyerhoff Program model, and then to move beyond the program per se, depicts its radiating effect on the UMBC campus more generally, and on strengths-based interventions around the county.

Formal Organizational Support and STEM Intervention Outcomes: A Strengths-Based Approach

TaShara Bailey—University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This strengths-based study provides new insight into the social organization of strong pipeline interventions for URS. TaShara Bailey’s presentation summarizes recent findings on how strong Formal Organizational Support may help to explain overall program satisfaction and successful STEM career plans among URS. This NIH-NIGMS supported study revealed that URS in strong pipeline interventions with multiple program components had higher scores on strong formal organizational support scale items than URS in pipeline interventions with fewer formal program components. In summary, (1) URS with higher formal organizational support had significantly higher informal support from program peers than from either faculty mentors or program staff sources; (2) strong formal organizational support was related to program satisfaction, and (3) program satisfaction was linked to STEM research career plans. Theory-driven findings have implications for refining a strengths-based model of successful STEM outcomes, guiding future research as well as implications for program practice and policy.

Financial and Academic Barriers to STEM Intervention Success

Krystal Williams—Educational Testing Service

Although strengths-based interventions can promote STEM success, it is also important to understand how barriers faced by URS in intervention settings also influence STEM outcomes. Krystal Williams’ Presentation focuses on the importance of strengths-based elements to overcome pivotal financial and academic barriers that often impede URS in intervention settings. This NIH-NIGMS supported study further clarifies social psychological mechanisms through which financial and academic barriers impede STEM outcomes. Multivariate analyses of longitudinal data on 376 URS in summer research interventions found that STEM research career plans were enhanced by strengths-based interventions, but impeded by financial and academic barriers (both objective barriers and subjective threats). Study findings also suggest that personal resiliency, a measure of adaptive cultural strength, can promote successful STEM outcomes despite barriers. These theory-driven findings can help program administrators and policy-makers better determine not only if, but how, strengths-based interventions promote STEM success.

Don't forget to join us in San Antonio for the 2017 UI Conference!

Our 9th Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers will be held at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, in downtown San Antonio.