The Idaho Science Talent Expansion Program: Improving Freshmen Retention for STEM Majors

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



During summer of 2010, we conducted a series of freshman orientation programs that were held for new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at Boise State University. Approximately 320 students were advised in this manner, during seven summer orientation sessions. This was a significant change from previous years, which used a college-specific approach to advising, thereby limiting various retention programs and opportunities designed and promoted by the College of Engineering to engineering majors. The motivation for these changes was a Science Talent Expansion Program award from the National Science Foundation, and the fact that the retention rates for freshmen engineering majors is approximately 10% higher as compared with science and mathematics majors. The grant proposed to (1) integrate the science and mathematics majors with the engineering majors during summer orientation, (2) expand student learning community offerings to STEM majors, (3) create a General Sciences course for STEM students who are underprepared in mathematics, and (4) offer an elective, non-credit bearing mathematics online review course, free of charge, to students entering the university in STEM majors. An underlying and important rationale for widening the advisement base to include all STEM majors in an inclusive manner is the fact that many freshmen are unsure of their major. Therefore orientation materials were prepared that emphasized the commonalities between majors and the underpinning courses and their prerequisites. The results of these four activities, to date, will be presented together with strategy revisions planned for summer 2011.

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