Public Discussion

  • Icon for: Kathryn Williamson

    Kathryn Williamson

    Presenter
    March 20, 2017 | 10:54 a.m.

    Hello, all! The First2 project is looking for partners and ideas for how to improve rural, first-generation college students' persistence! Our focus is in West Virginia, but we envision impact beyond our state.

  • Icon for: Jeanne Century

    Jeanne Century

    Facilitator
    March 20, 2017 | 12:48 p.m.

    Hi Kathryn - I loved learning about your approach to engaging rural students who aren't often at the front of the conversation about broadening participation. I remember my own work years ago in rural New York and learning that parents of elementary students didn't really want their kids to learn "STEM" because they feared it mean their kids would leave. 

    I find the idea of having your students go back to their homes and the schools that they went to be very interesting and exciting. 

    I'd love to hear more about the metrics you are using to determine whether your hoped for outcomes are coming to fruition with your student participants. What data are you collecting from them and are you collecting data from the youth in their home towns at all?

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 21, 2017 | 01:48 p.m.

    Yes, that's the trick isn't it.  Our research team has created and are currently validating an instrument to use with the pilot group of rising college freshmen.  Our first contact with them is happening now as we select the pilot participants.   But what has been really valuable so far has been listening to current FGCS who are an important part of our steering committee.  Their insights  and their desire to contribute to solving the problem have been that "just in time data" that we need to modify and rethink some of our approaches.

     

     

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    Caitlin Howley

    Guest
    March 22, 2017 | 09:34 a.m.

    Hi, Jeanne. Our team is working madly to get IRB approval for our preliminary survey of freshman and sophomore rural and non-rural first-generation STEM students in several WV colleges. Subscales focus on reasons for STEM entry, challenges to STEM persistence in college, STEM efficacy, rural identity, place attachment, and vulnerability to rural stereotype threat. We're also surveying STEM faculty to get a sense of their perspectives on rural first-gen students.

    In terms of outcomes, the most distal is year to year re-enrollment. But we also hope to conduct regular (weekly? monthly?) quick check ins with students in our project about how they're feeling in terms of efficacy and their likelihood of persistence to the next semester. At intervals, we also want to check in on the development of a STEM identity and whether/how these experiences are interacting with their sense of being rural. Finally, we are interested in how students make connections between their STEM interests and their interest in contributing to their communities.

  • Icon for: Jeanne Century

    Jeanne Century

    Facilitator
    March 22, 2017 | 09:46 a.m.

    Thanks so much for your response. One thing to consider as you move forward is the difference between STEM and S, T, E, and M. In our work in K-12 we found that our measures perform better when we ask about the disciplines separately (when it comes to things like self-efficacy and interest, for example). It makes sense of course - mathematics, science, engineering and technology (however students define technology in their minds are all very different. We also found in questionnaires given to high school students that their definitions of "STEM" were highly varied. So, that may be something to explore during your check ins and as you move forward with your instrument development. Looking forward to watching this work move forward!

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    Caitlin Howley

    Guest
    March 23, 2017 | 06:47 p.m.

    That's a really helpful point! And I think it has some immediate implications for how we phrase items on our preliminary surveys (not to mention later data collection efforts). Thanks!

  • Icon for: Chrystalla Mouza

    Chrystalla Mouza

    Presenter
    March 26, 2017 | 10:06 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this experience Jeanne regarding content-specific measures. We focus on computer science and our instruments are specific to this area of STEM, so your comment was re-assuring.

  • Icon for: Marc Levis-Fitzgerald

    Marc Levis-Fitzgerald

    Director center for educational assessment
    March 20, 2017 | 08:41 p.m.

    Very cool project.  Interested in your efforts to be inclusive.  To invite and support students who may not see their potential. You also address how policies need to be reviewed as you move your project forward.  How to document and measure these outcomes will be important

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 21, 2017 | 01:28 p.m.

    Hi everyone.  This is fun!  I'm on the First2 Network launch pilot and I will be online this afternoon to answer any questions, and discuss.

  • Icon for: Joni Falk

    Joni Falk

    Facilitator
    March 21, 2017 | 01:54 p.m.

    Hi Sue, thanks for telling us that you are online this afternoon to answer questions! This project addresses a very important challenge of addressing the needs of first generation students. Your research questions are great. What factors contribute to first generation student entry to postsecondary study of STEM? What enables or threatens persistence? How can they acclimate without losing their rural identity, and what institutional practices help? What are your methods for researching these questions? How will you know if your network is effective?

    PS. Such an interesting project but the video sound quality made it hard to always hear the message. 

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 21, 2017 | 02:49 p.m.

    First I should say that unlike many pilots that have been building a network for a number of years, First2 is starting at ground level with an identified problem, and a shared desire in solving it.  At the end of the video you can see who makes up the core group. Beyond the core group which is diverse and substantial, we are actively adding stakeholders to our network through-out the launch phase.

    Here's how we know we're on the right track:  No-one has dropped out, and the network is growing fast!  As we publicize our work to colleges and departments who are just learning about First2; as we tell our FGCS about the program, and what we are up to, we are getting immediate buy in. FGCS in particular are stepping in to fully participate as  leaders, planners, and makers. Clearly this means we have an important problem to solve.  I'm very interested in hearing from those folks who have been using the Collective Impact approach. We are learning tons from going to the INCLUDES conferences!

    As for the approaches we have identified and are piloting,  first we are surveying stakeholders  in our state beyond our core groups of colleges and universities to determine the level of "agreement" between our ideas on improving persistence in STEM, and theirs. Members of our our team will participate in a guided "Data Driven" workshop to evaluate our approaches in light of this data.

    First we note that their is very little - really no literature  that combines: persistence in STEM in the first 2 years of college + rural students + first generation college students. So there is a need for a research program. The research plan uses a mixed methods approach (pre-post validated surveys  for students and faculty based on prior work; case studies; focus groups, and extant data from the state colleges who are part of the pilot). Currently we have expanded our core team to include 5 current FGCS from WV. Through our normal planning meetings they have helped to shape the construction of our plan moving forward.

  • Icon for: Kathryn Williamson

    Kathryn Williamson

    Presenter
    March 21, 2017 | 04:15 p.m.

    Hi Joni, I apologize for the sound quality issues, as I am a complete novice in video production. Glad you like our project, and please ask about anything that was difficult to glean from the video. We are happy to have your perspective!

  • Icon for: Joni Falk

    Joni Falk

    Facilitator
    March 21, 2017 | 03:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the reply and clarifying that you are at the early stages. Very exciting to be at the ground level exploring the issues that are particular for first generation students from rural areas and their persistence in STEM in college. Very interesting to see if they profile differently than other first generation students. I look forward to following your work. 

     

  • Icon for: Mia Ong

    Mia Ong

    Facilitator
    March 21, 2017 | 08:49 p.m.

    Hi Kathryn and Sue! I also really admire your video and project. I was most interested to see your wide-ranging and thoughtful research questions. There certainly is a dearth of information on rural + FG students in UG STEM, so I hope you publish early and often! Can you say more about the demographics of the students you are trying to reach. What are the age ranges (are they traditional or non-traditional college age), what is the gender balance, what are the races/ethnicities? This is a population with which I'm not too familiar, so I'd love to learn more. Thanks!

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 21, 2017 | 10:32 p.m.

    Hey Mia,

    Thanks for taking a look!

    For the pilot we have a steering committee type of group that includes  WV students who are in our state colleges and universities who are FGCS. They are becoming increasingly important contributors to our project.

    We are right now in the process of selecting 35 WV students who are First gen students majoring in STEM or leaning toward STEM ( if they are taking STEM classes their first year in college this is acceptable as well).  Our application flyers are very explicit  that we are interested in non traditional students as well as current high school seniors, but it is easier to recruit through the school systems , so I'm betting that we will  have a large majority of HS students ( aka rising freshmen) for the pilot.

    We are hoping to get enough applicants that will result in groups at students at several schools in the state that range from "large" flagship universities to small colleges that have large FGCS populations.  We have one community college involved right now.  Community Colleges in WV serve a different role  than in other states. We haven't had a community college system for long - and if I remember right, only about 17% of CC students go onto 4 year schools in our state right now. Instead, our CC serve students looking for post secondary credentials or certifications. But we suspect that will change.

    But here's a cool thing about our high school students. According to state-wide surveys, many have a real interest in STEM - girls and boys. But we will see what are applicant pool looks like.  April 1 is the priority deadline for participants.

  • Icon for: Mia Ong

    Mia Ong

    Facilitator
    March 23, 2017 | 04:46 p.m.

    Thanks for all of the details, Sue! It seems that with such wide outreach, you will have a lot of variables to consider when it comes time for your analysis. What extra steps are you taking to enroll non-traditional students in your program? As time goes on, I'd be interested in learning what the gender and racial/ethnicity outcomes are. Good luck!

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 23, 2017 | 05:10 p.m.

    All of the colleges who are working on the pilot with us are using their incoming freshmen enrollment lists to send out recruiting information to their incoming freshmen. In most cases, working with the enrollment offices  we can sort  these students  by criteria to target first gen, non traditional, rural.   This includes community colleges which enroll more non-traditional students.

    Our pilot includes a two-week summer internship for freshmen before they start their first semester. We know that no matter how attractive that might be, even 2-week residential internships can be tough for non traditional students to participate in- IF they are not located near the towns where they live.  In order to make this type of program accessible to all rural FGCS, we need to develop more internship opportunities, than the 2 we are starting with in our pilot.

  • Icon for: Mia Ong

    Mia Ong

    Facilitator
    March 27, 2017 | 01:46 p.m.

    Hi Sue. Many thanks for the added details. This is a great project and I wish you great success!

  • Icon for: Janice Jackson

    Janice Jackson

    Facilitator
    March 23, 2017 | 02:55 a.m.

    Kathryn, it is heartening to see the focus on rural ad first gen students.  Rural students are so often forgotten.  There has been agreat deal of research on first gen students.  What have you learned from the research that guides your work.  We are taking about a huge culture shock for many first gen/ rural students when the hit the college campus.  The ambassador idea is excellent to support the students.  What will you do to help families understand that they are not loosing their children.  The student will be different than their families after attending college.  How will this program help students maintain their identity.

    How will the rural ways of understanding living science be incorporated into your project?

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 23, 2017 | 06:32 p.m.

    Hi Janice, Thank you for the comments. You allude to two biggies that we gleaned form the literature and also from talking to FGCS in West Virginia.

    Culture shock relates  to us in that rural students place high value on self-sufficiency and community interdependence, community and family cohesion, and these values can be at odds with those at large post secondary institutions.

    But a big take away from the lit is that socio-economic status beats just about everything, as an obstacle to student success. If you have to combine work with college, you have less time to integrate into the academic culture.  As a FGCS you are also less likely to obtain financial aid, scholarships, or use student support services, because neither you or your family has experience navigating the higher education culture. 

     The literature also points toward some best practices that improve persistence in STEM, and we are implementing activities  such as early STEM research experiences, "Freshman seminar" that integrate soft skill development with STEM work, develop relationships between the students and STEM faculty, and a firm commitment to building agency in our students. The students, better than anyone will be able to articulate the problems as they encounter them, and shape the changes that need to take place.

    Who will we convince families?  The Student Ambassadors not only reach down and offer a hand to younger kids but also  meet with local civic  and business leaders as new leaders who understand local context,  who major in STEM in order to make their community better,  and who love their community while valuing Science, Math and college.    I think we can win the hearts and minds of our families. That's the hypothesis. As ambassadors, our students will receive recognition in their home-towns. We love to be proud of our kids, and feel shared pride no matter whose kid it is.

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    Caitlin Howley

    Guest
    March 23, 2017 | 06:47 p.m.

    GREAT questions! In regards to the literature on first gen students, we're very familiar with it, and are including its key findings in our efforts (e.g., building knowledge about how to navigate through college structures, for example, is particularly important for first gen students--so we're building in a support network so rural first gen students can share experiences/insights and mentor each other).

    But there's some research suggesting that, in addition to the usual suspects making things challenging for first gen students, there are some particular issues that rural students face. These include acculturative stress; tension between attachment to place and the need to go elsewhere to pursue college and/or career; lack of experience with large institutions and places; underestimating the need to build new relationships; lack of solitude and access to nature; and higher rates of employment in college among rural vs. nonrural students. So we're deliberately focusing on those issues as well as those that challenge first gen students in general.

    One way we hope to help students preserve rural identity and place attachment is by engaging them immediately in STEM research opportunities that are place-based. For instance, students at one of our sites will work on solar energy research; given the decline (and depredations) of coal mining in WV, finding other means of energy and employment is really crucial. So, connecting the doing of science to places/communities students care about is key to our work.

    Our design is also user-centered, which helps keep us grounded in rural first gen students’ experiences. We have a rural first gen student advisor, and many of our team members were rural first gen STEM students themselves. So we’re honoring their particular knowledge and insights by incorporating them into project design. Course modules and internship camps offer us opportunities to engage students in frank conversations (and problem solving) around their experiences as they encounter college. At the same time, we recognize that rurality is not a deficit by any means, and there are rural strengths that we want to engage—strong community support networks (although in some places, communities have been hit so hard that social capital is jeopardized); “small town charm” arising from understanding that everyone needs everyone in a rural place; an ethic of care for land and place; work ethic or sense of adult responsibility arising from work on a family enterprise or from self-provisioning activities such as farming, hunting, fishing, and building; among many others.

    In terms of helping families understand that they haven’t lost their college-going children, we haven’t yet thought deeply about that. But you raise a terrific point, and I hope we find a way to address that issue. Thank you!

  • Icon for: Suzanne Barbour

    Suzanne Barbour

    Dean
    March 23, 2017 | 05:12 p.m.

    Kathryn, This is an exciting project. Like yours, our Alliance is focused on empowering students to select and stay in STEM and like you we want the students to have a voice. I'm interested to know more about how you are engaging your students. I also encourage you to take a look at our video, in particular the collaborative inquiry approach we are using.

    Suzanne

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    Sue Heatherly

    Informal Educator
    March 23, 2017 | 06:32 p.m.

    Hi Suzanne, This is Sue Ann, another team member on the project. Just watched your video, and it seems like our projects are peaches and plums in a pie if not peas in a pod! I really really  like the way you  focus on students' lived experience.  I'm going to do some reading on collaborative inquiry! Love the way you articulated that in the video. We really do believe that  we won't solve the obstacles to persistence without the full participation of the students.

    For the pilot we are engaging  ~30 rising freshmen FGCS, and ~ 5 rising sophoomre FGCS  in  a 2-week summer science research experience at one of two locations, a small university in the state or a FFRDC here in WV. In either case the students will be in residence, and the experience will have a hefty component of co-hort/team building.

    That will be followed by an alternative to a typical freshmen seminar, that meets weekly to in order to engage students in learning and practicing skills within the context of their STEM coursework.  Since the students will be attending 4-5 different schools, the meetings will be facilitated locally but  be connected online.  We are developing some of these sessions ahead of time; but plan on many sessions being steered by the students "lived experience" to steal your phrase. In concert with all of this is the development of a really robust research plan to better understand the FGCS STEM major and the rural FGCS STEM major.

    And the final  student engagement piece is what we call the "hometown ambassador" to reconnect our students back to the place that matters the most to rural students and that is their home community.

    I think we should stay in touch! This is a hard medium in which to chat, but SO glad you reached out.  I'm not the only one, I see from your video comments that one of our team independently commented on your project too (Erica Harvey)

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    Erica Harvey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    March 24, 2017 | 12:38 p.m.

    I'm a member of the First Two launch pilot team and I will be online until 2 pm today.  Happy to answer any questions.

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    John Ristvey

    Guest
    March 24, 2017 | 03:39 p.m.

    HI First Two,

    Great project! I'm one of the First Two advisors. This project while being conducted in rural West Virginia has national implications. According to Rural Education Research in the U.S. (Nugent et al., 2017), about 33 percent of all U.S. schools are rural, accounting for 20 percent of U.S. students. And of that total, 47 percent are living in poverty, 27 percent are minority, and nearly 13 percent require special education services. 

    Once you are further along, how might your findings be shared with others across the country who may benefit from your research?

     

  • Icon for: Janice Jackson

    Janice Jackson

    Facilitator
    March 26, 2017 | 12:34 a.m.

    To the Team, I appreciate your thoughtfulness as you learn about the reality of students who are first gen and rural.  The nuances of their reality are very important.  I am happy to see more focus on rural students as the world economy makes a shit away from manufacturing to the knowledge world.  I look forward to learning how things turn out.

    Janice

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

FIRST TWO: Improving STEM Persistence in the First Two Years of College
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Many of West Virginia’s college students come from rural areas and are the first in their families to pursue a higher degree. However, attending college disconnects students from their tight-knit hometown support systems, and very few persist beyond their first two years of college. To better understand the barrier of persistence and to solve the problem of attrition, the FIRST TWO INCLUDES Project brings together Community College and University leaders, National Lab STEM professionals, and Rural Education experts. Our plan is to integrate early experience in STEM internships, online communities of practice, and STEM skills development into a discovery-based "principles of research and development" college seminar for first year students. Our goal is for the course to be transferrable such that it can be scaled to institutions around West Virginia and across the Appalachian region. By re-framing the connection to home as an asset, we will sustain engagement through a second service learning course called “STEM Leadership.” The FIRST TWO “Hometown Ambassadors” who take this course will develop communication skills and will mentor younger students. They will go back to their hometowns to reach out to students they actually know and work with teachers and school board members of the schools they attended, thereby becoming agents of change in their own communities. Because of the FIRST TWO project, we will be able to determine the feasibility of a National STEM Persistence Alliance that partners National Lab internship programs with 2 and 4-year schools who serve First Generation College students.