Strategies and Initiatives to Revitalize the Undergraduate STEM Programs at Wesley College

Saturday, 14 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Malcolm J. D'Souza, Wesley College, Dover, DE
Background: Wesley College is located in historic Dover, Delaware (DE). This small, private minority-serving institution with a liberal arts tradition is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. More than 40% of students are the first in their family to attend college. Wesley offers B.S. degrees in biological chemistry, biology, environmental studies, mathematics, and medical technology. In 2002, Wesley and the University of Delaware, the state’s flagship institution, established a successful partnership that acquired two large ongoing federal grants: the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPS-0814251, DE-EPSCoR) grant and an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH under grant number 8 P20 GM103446-14 (DE-INBRE). To foster success by students underrepresented in STEM fields, Wesley began the Cannon Scholars program in September 2014 with funding (NSF DUE 1355554) through the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program. Our long term goals for the Wesley College DE-EPSCoR, DE-INBRE, and Cannon Scholars programs are: (a) to increase the number of underrepresented, financially-disadvantaged, academically-talented students graduating from Wesley with B.S. degrees in STEM areas; (b) to strengthen their preparation for and interest in pursuing graduate- or professional programs; and (c) to increase the number of well-educated and skilled employees in technical areas. Methods: Wesley is taking steps to strengthen the academic environment to better serve its general population of high-need students. Faculty implemented a new Core Curriculum in fall 2014 with a first-year experience, learning communities, undergraduate research experiences, enhanced early alert systems and extensive peer- and faculty mentoring. To increase the number of STEM graduates, we enacted a coordinated program of curriculum enhancements and student support programs to increase the number of students choosing STEM majors, increase their academic success, and improve retention. Results: Revising courses, curricula and support services to foster integrative learning give students both the enthusiasm and the cognitive tools to persist and succeed in challenging STEM majors. Conclusions: By continually fine-tuning the academic STEM experience of students at Wesley, the program will produce increases in the number of STEM graduates that will be sustainable over the long-term.