Degree Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Frankie Laanan

Abstract

There is soon-to-be a shortage of qualified U.S. workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As a result, many science-related jobs are being filled by technically-skilled foreign workers. If the U.S wants to maintain its global economic leadership, then it must ensure a continuous growth of highly-trained individuals in STEM disciplines. Therefore, American institutions of higher education, including community colleges, must identify potential factors that contribute to the lack of interest in STEM majors, as well as the low rate of success of students who enter STEM majors but struggle to finish their degrees. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of community college transfer students who are pursuing bachelor degrees in STEM majors at Iowa State University (ISU). What were their transfer experiences and what influenced their academic success in STEM. Participants were encouraged to share their transfer experiences while at the community college as well as their experiences on the ISU campus. They were also asked about their level of academic involvement, their relationships with faculty, and their participation in peer group activities prior to and after transferring. The research design included both quantitative and qualitative components, which provided an in-depth look at the experiences of STEM non-engineering and engineering students. Quantitative data include students' background characteristics, demographic information, and college activities at the community college and ISU. Qualitative data were used to illuminate students' overall transfer experience and their successful journey in STEM fields. The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods allowed a better understanding of the strategies students put into practice once they transfer from a community college to a four-year institution in pursuit of a STEM bachelor's degree. The results of this study suggest that there is an association among the background characteristics, community college experiences, university experiences, and the overall adjustment and cumulative GPA of transfer students from STEM non-engineering and engineering majors. In addition, students reported how their early experiences in science and mathematics inspired them to pursue a career in STEM. Even though students chose to go into STEM areas at the community college and university level due to prior interest, the role of academic advisors and faculty were crucial to the adjustment process. Thus, it is vital for academic advisors and faculty to assist students in researching the transfer process to four-year institutions because students need to understand why this is essential to their academic and social adjustment process. The results indicate that it is important to encourage students to interact inside and outside the classroom with other students and instructors. Also, students should become more involved in academic and social groups since these are important factors in enhancing their academic and social adjustment.

Copyright Owner

Carlos Lopez

Language

en

File Format

application/pdf

File Size

223 pages

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