Story STEM

CSU Campuses Receive More than $35 Million to Increase Number of Latinx Students with STEM Degrees

Christianne Salvador



Twelve CSU campuses received grants totaling more than $35 million from the U.S. Department of Education to boost support for Latinx and low-income students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

CSU campuses make up some of the leading Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the nation, with 46 percent of the university's 432,000 undergraduate students being Hispanic or Latinx. And according to the Pew Research Center, no group faces a larger representation gap in STEM jobs than Hispanics. As designated HSIs, CSU campuses are using the federal funds to create programs that will bridge the equity gap faced by underrepresented minority and low-income students in STEM fields.

Though programs are diverse and unique, they share the same three objectives: To prepare students to successfully transfer to the CSU; to provide the adequate support students need to retain in their courses; and to graduate workforce-ready professionals. Read on to learn how some campuses are enabling students to flourish and secure jobs in high-demand STEM fields.

Objective 1: Provide effective pathways from California Community Colleges to the CSU

Starting at the community college level, CSU campuses will be working to increase the number of Latinx student transfers and empower them to persist in STEM majors.

CSU Dominguez Hills is partnering with four local community colleges to make nearly every support service available to students at the community colleges. The Guided Pathways for STEM (GPS) program is an innovative approach that gives equal weight to addressing academic and nonacademic needs. Students will be provided with advising, assessment, tutoring and workshops, as well as services to help meet their basic needs so they can focus on academic success and efficiently transfer to CSUDH.

CSU Fullerton's Project RAISER is making sure incoming students are prepared for the rigors of STEM courses. Community college students will be conducting undergraduate research at CSUF, and CSUF staff will be preparing them for high-impact internships and research opportunities after they transfer.

Objective 2: Keep students on track to a STEM Degree

“Among other barriers, some Latinx and lower-income families and communities lack full awareness of the great opportunities in STEM. We want to strengthen the resources and support for our first generation Latinx students need to thrive and define the future here at CSUSB," says Sastry G. Pantula, Ph.D., dean of the College of Natural Sciences at Cal State San Bernardino. “Not only do they need proactive advising, but it's also important that they have Hispanic role models in academia. In addition, our transfer students from community colleges need to experience a smooth transition to CSUSB as a result of developing good articulation agreements."

Cal State San Bernardino is establishing a Science Success Center to address the unique challenges that underrepresented students face. The center will steer students to valuable resources, including counseling and psychological services, provide supplemental instruction, tutoring, individual development plans, undergraduate research opportunities and other programs to improve academic and career success. The center will also give students access to Latinx mentors from professional societies.

Dr. Pantula, who along with his colleagues, helped secure the HSI funding to build the center through the Proactive Approaches for Training Hispanics in STEM (PATHS) program, describes the center as “a one-stop shop for holistic advising, STEM Club activities, career panels and much more."

At CSU Channel Islands, Project AYUDAS will be reassessing and modifying first-year required STEM courses, as these introduce students to STEM and can influence their decision on whether they want to stay or switch majors. Project AYUDAS will increase STEM student retention by redesigning the curriculum and developing equity-minded pedagogy for faculty.

Objective 3: Develop competitive, career-ready professionals

The number of Hispanic graduates needs to triple by 2030 in order for the STEM workforce to reflect the demographics of our country, according to the National Science Board.

To address the workforce equity gap, campuses are promoting students' employability with hands-on experience and sharpened job skills.

Sacramento State's STEM4Equity will transform math, physics and engineering courses to align with what STEM employers need. Leadership activities and internships will be offered to develop STEM identity for Latinx and low-income students and equip them with real-world skills.

Meanwhile, CSU San Marcos will leverage industry partnerships to align education and workforce. The campus will embed undergraduate research experiences in the curriculum and offer work-based learning opportunities.

Learn more about the HSI grant program and how campuses plan to maximize it on the U.S. Department of Education website

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