Collaborative Research: Practices and Research on Student Pathways in Education for Community College and Transfer Students to STEM


For students at a two-year college, making the jump to a four-year institution can be daunting. The transition often entails leaving tight-knit communities, smaller classes and daily interactions with instructors for full lecture halls, farther-removed teachers and a larger, more affluent student body. Figuring out financial aid, planning course loads and navigating an ingrained social hierarchy add to the pressure. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is leading a 22-institution research collaboration aimed at smoothing this transition by building strong partnerships between two- and four-year colleges. With a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will conduct research aimed at filling a critical gap in the national understanding of what it takes to help transfer students succeed.

The Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education leads the research hub, one of the first four research hubs funded through a new NSF program that builds on the agency’s longstanding Scholarships in STEM program, or S-STEM, which funds scholarships and institutional support systems for low-income STEM students. Through the research hubs, NSF aims to identify what’s working — and what’s not — at S-STEM sites using mixed-methods research. The researchers will form topic-based professional learning communities at each S-STEM site, uniting faculty and other professionals to discuss issues in a given area, such as student advising, financial aid or teaching specific introductory STEM courses in ways that foster students’ sense of belonging. The team also will conduct visits to approximately 25 S-STEM sites over the grant period, interviewing program leaders to identify the practices that bolster student success.

In partnership with: Clemson University, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Michigan State University and University of Texas at Arlington, plus 17 other two- and four-year colleges

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The overarching goal of PROSPECT S-STEM is to connect research and practice to better support low-income STEM transfer students through focusing on:

Students’ Lived Experiences

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Faculty and Staff Supports of Students

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Programmatic Supports for Students

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Two-year and Four-year Institutional Partnerships to Support Transfer Students

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These four dimensions are interrelated, and will be studied through the lens of 10 current S-STEM projects.

Institutional racism, classism, and gender bias have resulted in large and persistent disparities in STEM workforce participation. Many low-income and historically marginalized potential STEM workers begin postsecondary education at 2 year colleges.

It is critical to understand how 2 & 4 year colleges can better support students through institutional partnerships and S-STEM programs is a promising avenue to broaden participation in the STEM workforce.

Collaborative Research Sites

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Clemson University

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University of Missouri-Kansas City

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Michigan State University

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University of Texas at Arlington

Partner Institutions

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East Carolina University

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University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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Augsburg University

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Southeast Community College

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Nebraska Indian Community College

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Century College


Dallas College

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Kansas City Kansas Community College

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Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City

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Minneapolis College

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Mott Community College

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Normandale Community College

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Pitt Community College

Spartanburg Community College logo

Spartanburg Community College

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Tarrant County College

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Trident Technical College


Washtenaw Community College

Lead Principal Investigators

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Wendy Smith
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Principal Investigator

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Matt Voigt
Clemson University

Principal Investigator

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Vashti Sawtelle
Michigan State University

Principal Investigator

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Michelle Maher
University of Missouri Kansas City

Principal Investigator

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Theresa Jorgensen
University of Texas Arlington

Principal Investigator

All Team Members
Name Institution
Karen Anderson Normandale Community College
Emmanuel Barton-Odro University of Nebraska-Lincoln
D. Matthew Boyer Clemson University
Darran Cairns University of Missouri Kansas City
Jerry Caldwell Michigan State University
Ricky Castles East Carolina University
Destinee Cooper Clemson University
Susan Dentel Washtenaw Community College
Brittany Duncan University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Rebekah Dupont Augsburg University
Tim Fuldord Trident Technical College
Rachel Funk University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jodi Hoffman Southeast Community College
Sandeep Holay Southeast Community College
Katie Johnson University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Theresa Jorgensen University of Texas Arlington
Dan Justice Metropolitan Community College Kansas City
Molly Kenedy Clemson University
John Kevern University of Missouri Kansas City
Renu Kumar Minneapolis College
Kelly Lazar Clemson University
Michelle Maher University of Missouri Kansas City
Jacob Marszalek University of Missouri Kansas City
Cami Monsalve Michigan State University
Janet Morales Augsburg University
Name Institution
Camilla Morone University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kathleen O'Shea University of Missouri Kansas City
Jeffrey Patton University of North Carolina Greensboro
Bryanne Peterson Ynoti Solutions
Joann Pfeiffer Century College
Audra Podliska Southeast Community College
Aileen Reid University of North Carolina Greensboro
Tiffani Riggers-Piehl University of Missouri Kansas City
Ariel Robbins Michigan State University
Lynn Sametz University of North Carolina Greensboro
Sunni Samuels-Larry Mott Community College
Joseph Santaniello Spartanburg Community College
Vashti Sawtelle Michigan State University
Marcia Schenck Spartanburg Community College
Malcolm Schug University of North Carolina Greensboro
Mindi Searls University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Wendy Smith University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Leen-Kiat Soh University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ron Stamper Mott Community College
John T Sutton ResultED
Carla Sutton ResultED
Chris Venters East Carolina University
Jaideep Visave University of North Carolina Greensboro
Matthew Voigt Clemson University
Tony Weiss University of Missouri Kansas City

Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board members provide us with formative feedback by reviewing key plans, project activities, and findings. Virtual meetings provide opportunities for discussion among the Prospect S-STEM leadership team and advisory board.

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April Strom
Chandler-Gilbert Community College

Mathematics Faculty

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Marissa Vasquez
San Diego State University

Associate Professor

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Vilma Mesa
University of Michigan


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Xueli Wang
University of Wisconsin


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Becky Wai-Ling Packard
Mount Holyoke College


nsf logo Prospect S-STEM is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DUE-2201486). All Prospect S-STEM activities and findings are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agency.