Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Overtoun Jenda, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
The Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in STEM (AASD-STEM) is an evidence-based bridge model to prepare and retain students with disabilities at college level. Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the program functions as an alliance between five Alabama institutions of higher education: Auburn University, Auburn University Montgomery, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University, and Southern Union State Community College. The goals of the alliance are to increase the quality and quantity of students with disabilities completing associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees in STEM; increase the number of students with disabilities in STEM entering the STEM workforce; and increasing the number of high school students with disabilities entering college. Through mentoring, group meetings, cluster groups, tutoring, and research internship opportunities, the Alliance provides academic and social support to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities pursuing STEM degrees. A “Students Enabling Students” association is also part of the alliance activities, helping promote self-advocacy among students with disabilities and increasing awareness about disability issues across each campus in the Alliance. An AASD-STEM Annual Conference is also held each spring, giving students an opportunity to present their research findings and network with other students with disabilities and program faculty and staff. Participating students have had a range of disabilities. Results of the program have been highly successful. Participating students have shown increased self-efficacy and intention to persist in STEM, higher levels of interest and confidence in conducting research, and more frequent engagement in self-advocacy behaviors. Participants often cite the social support and peer network they have gained through the program as the greatest benefits. In addition to being an impactful model for students with disabilities, this Bridge model has been demonstrated as an effective retention model for larger groups of students, having been successfully applied to students in other retention programs, both with and without disabilities, and in both STEM and non-STEM majors. The program is currently being expanded through a recently awarded NSF INCLUDES pilot program grant, which will increase the number of participating institutions to 21, located throughout the Southeastern United States.