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  • STEM-CONNECT INITIATIVE


    In October 2016, LaGuardia Community College was awarded a five-year grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (HSI STEM) and Articulation Program to provide more access to and support services for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. The STEM-CONNECT grant is a campus-wide initiative that involves building a robust STEM pipeline, creating strong STEM communities within the campus’s degree programs, and strengthening successful transfer to four-year schools for STEM graduates.


    Connect-to-College, the first component of the STEM-CONNECT grant, aims to provide greater access to STEM education and opportunities for adult learners. By helping low-income adults and out-of-school youth explore STEM career and college opportunities and successfully apply to LaGuardia Community College, the Connect-to-College component will increase the amount of underrepresented minorities entering the STEM pipeline, strengthening the American economy.


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    1. Engaging Adult and Continuing Education (ACE) Students via STEM Outreach

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    Jobs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field are some of the fastest growing and highest paid in the US; however, women and minorities are severely underrepresented in the pipeline for entry into STEM fields. White workers hold 72% of STEM positions in the U.S, while African Americans and Hispanic Americans hold only 4% and 5% of STEM careers, respectively ( Miller and Horrigan, 2014). Furthermore, women hold less than 25% of STEM positions. Strengthening STEM education and career pathways knowledge at community colleges is crucial to engaging the talents of women and underrepresented minority (URM) students.


    LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), particularly its Adult and Continuing Education (ACE) programs, is a gateway to opportunity for thousands of immigrant, Hispanic, and low-income college students. ACE engages more than 26,000 non-credit students each year, providing pre-college services to students in GED/HSE, ESL and workplace literacy programs, as well as job training programs, veterans programs, and programs for incarcerated youth. As a pillar of ACE and creator of the college’s innovative Bridge to College & Career Program, Pre-College Academic Programming (PCAP) is responsible for providing STEM career aspiration-building and college-access services to more than 1,000 ACE students each year. The goal is simple but important: we want to diversify and strengthen our college’s STEM pipeline by engaging thousands of low-income, first-generation, basic-skills and ESL students.


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    2. Providing STEM Events for Adult Learners

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    There is an unmistakable relationship between career development and a student’s socioeconomic status. Scientists tend to come from well-educated, white families. Underrepresented minorities lack knowledge and familiarity with STEM careers, which may contribute to their limited presence in these fields. Knowledge about STEM career pathways and exposure to STEM workers increases minority students’ commitment to a STEM major, degree aspirations, and commitment to a STEM career ( The Urban Institute, 2005).


    This research guides PCAP’s work with ACE students, who are 57% Hispanic, 20% Asian and 14% Black ( LaGuardia Fast Facts, 2016). As part of the STEM-CONNECT Initiative, PCAP has begun developing and organizing several STEM events that will engage ACE students with STEM skills, career pathways, and labor market research. These moments of engagement occur via workshops, career panels, guest speakers, and more in an effort to expand students’ knowledge and interest in STEM fields.


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    3. Building a College-Going Culture in Adults and Continuing Education Programs

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    Studies funded by Lumina Foundation have found that what is most effective in higher education success is not one single intervention, but a thoughtful combination of interventions unified by a cohesive, integrated vision ( Rethinking College Student Retention, 2014). In line with this research, a cross-departmental workgroup with staff from adult and youth education programs and pre-college programs meet monthly to share updates, discuss best practices in STEM college access, and develop innovative ways to engage students with STEM content. These meetings create a supportive working community and increase the STEM college access and success knowledge of frontline staff, who play important roles in creating a college-going atmosphere within their individual ACE programs and classrooms.


    In addition, we have developed Transitions, a bimonthly newsletter that disseminates information about college access and success to the LaGuardia campus. We created STEM social media platforms for ACE students, which contain fun facts about STEM and advertise upcoming STEM events.

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    4. Expanding Enrollment in STEM Majors

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    Through ACE student and staff engagement with STEM knowledge and career pathways, we expect to see a 5% increase in LaGuardia Community College’s enrollment of STEM majors over the course of the five-year grant.