Monday, December 2, 2013

Evaluating a Diversity Research Program

Guest Post by Sarah Schmidt, astronomy postdoctoral fellow at The Ohio State University

The Pre-Major in Astronomy Program (Pre-MAP) at the University of Washington (UW) was designed to increase the number of under-represented students who chose to major in STEM fields. The main component of Pre-MAP is a seminar that gives freshman and first-year transfer students the chance to learn astronomy research methods and apply them to real projects. Students work closely with research mentors (graduate students, post-docs, or professors) and with each other. At the end of the quarter, each Pre-MAP student presents their work to the department. Beyond the seminar, we offer many other opportunities to Pre-MAP students such as one-on-one academic mentoring, cohort building, a yearly field trip, and tours of research labs around campus. 

Does our program meet its goal of increasing the number of under-represented students who choose to major in STEM? Over the past year, a group of us have been working to evaluate the program through use of the UW student database. We find that we succeed in attracting students with a range of ethnicities and pre-college experiences. Our students perform similarly to the overall UW population both in and out of STEM fields and are significantly more likely to pursue STEM degrees than their peers. 

A short paper describing our evaluation can be found on the arXiv. If you have questions, please contact Sarah GarnerMichael Tremmel, or Sarah Schmidt. For more information on Pre-MAP at UW, you can see the program website and look at the DIY Pre-MAP tools.