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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2018 Abstracts

A Case Study Investigating the Impact of a Summer MS to PhD Bridge Program on the Science Identities of Underrepresented Minority Students.

Mark Albrecht; Kristin Wilson-Grimes; Sennai Habtes, Southern Utah University

There are a number of factors that influence a student’s persistence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields; one is the student’s science identity. Across the globe there is a growing trend of young people not being able to envision themselves as scientists. This trend is particularly noticeable in student’s who are part of underrepresented minority (URM) groups. However, research shows that developing a scientific identity is an essential part of becoming a scientist. Building a scientific identity does not happen overnight and requires repeated exposure to different settings. An individual’s identity is linked with not only retention in STEM fields, but also future career planning. Individuals with a scientific identity are more likely to enter and stay in STEM career paths. Our project focused broadening participation in STEM in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) community by providing experiences that can help build a scientific identity. We developed interventions at critical STEM Pathway exit points (middle/high school, early college, and graduate school) to help build individual’s scientific identity. For this project we define an individual with a strong science identity as an individual who displays (1) competence (demonstrates meaningful content knowledge), (2) performance (uses the tools, ways of acting, and fluency of a scientist in informal and formal settings), and (3) recognition (self-recognizes and is recognized by others as a scientist). For this proposal, we focus specifically on the graduate school exit point. We developed a Bridge to PhD program for master’s students from the USVI to participate in an eight-week research experience at an R1 institution. We used a case study approach to measure the influence of the Bridge to PhD Program and supporting activities (i.e. pre/post-family programming events, career development plans, weekly mentor meetings) on the participant’s scientific identity. The case study approach provided detailed insight on small groups of participants (n=3). Participants completed pre/post-assessments that measured their competence (STEM content knowledge), performance (talking about and using scientific tools), and recognition (self-recognition of being a science person); pre/post-interviews, and participated in pre/post-family programming events. These data will allow us to determine if students began constructing a science identity during the intervention.