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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU and DACC partner up to improve gaps in STEM

New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for research to explain and overcome gaps in educational attainment for Hispanic and other low-income undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

These gaps include a lack of preparation for higher education after high school and low enrollment, retention, transfer and graduation. The Partnership for Retention and Improvement of Meaningful Opportunities in STEM (PRIMOS) grant will allow NMSU and DACC, which are both Hispanic Serving Institutions, to determine what activities increase the success of Hispanic and other low-income students in STEM courses.

"NMSU has some very good support programs and so does DACC and through the partnership formed with this grant, we can learn a great deal from one another to improve student services at both campuses," said Carmen Gonzales, NMSU vice president for student success.

The goals for NMSU and DACC are to increase the numbers of students who declare a STEM major by 20 percent, increase the number of degrees earned in STEM fields by 8 percent and establish a transfer model that results in a 20 percent increase in students who successfully transfer from DACC to NMSU.

"The goal of PRIMOS is to increase the number of students in STEM fields. However, students pursuing degrees in other fields also will benefit from PRIMOS because best practices will inform the services we provide for all of our students," Gonzales said.

To accomplish these goals, research-based activities will go into effect such as improved student advising, academic and student support, engaged teaching and learning and data coordination.

These categories will be supported by redesigning curriculum in STEM barrier courses, refresher courses in mathematics for entering freshmen, a transfer advisor at DACC, supplement instruction, coaches for students clustered in learning communities, a new STEM component in college readiness courses, faculty development to enhance teaching and learning and increased employment opportunities for STEM seniors.

Innovative technology will be an integral part of all services.

"It's exciting to be collaborating on this project," said Margie Huerta, DACC president. "Good things, that we have not anticipated, may come as a result of this grant."

The PRIMOS grant management team will include Gonzales and Huerta as the principal investigators. Terry Cook, NMSU assistant vice president of student engagement, and Steve Kanim, a physics professor at NMSU, will direct the project.

An advisory board consisting of cross-campus offices, departments, programs and services will be used as a tool to decide the most effective plans in improving student retention, transfer and graduation in STEM fields.