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STEM Models of Success: Programs, Policies, and Practices in the Community College

reviewed by Mary Atwater, John Colson & Barbara Rascoe - August 31, 2015

coverTitle: STEM Models of Success: Programs, Policies, and Practices in the Community College
Author(s): J. Luke Wood & Robert T. Palmer (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623964814, Pages: 298, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com

STEM Models of Success: Programs, Policies, and Practices in the Community College, edited by J. Luke Wood and Robert T. Palmer, is an attempt to provide scholars and practitioners in higher education a platform to discuss and advance outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), particularly for students historically underrepresented and underserved in these fields. The authors focus on topics that include: the role of the community college in leveling the educational playing field, Upward Bound Programs, exemplary practices for pipeline transitions from community colleges, and the role of community college faculty in widening the STEM pipeline.

Given calls by President Obama: (a) to put STEM at the forefront of U.S. legislators’ agenda (Koebler, 2012); and (b) for free education at community colleges (Bidwell, 2015), STEM Models of Success provides some evidence that community colleges can be a post-secondary access point for non-traditional students, including students of color, second generation, low-income, and adult students to enter the STEM career workforce. Even though this book has thirteen chapters, it would have been helpful if the chapters had been grouped together along the lines of programs, policies, and practices as positioned in the title.


In Chapter One, author Diane Rodriguez-Kiino asserts how foundational premises and gender discrimination serve as hurdles to underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities (URMs) students in the STEM pipeline. The chapter makes a positive contribution as to the importance of the role of community colleges in increasing access to URM students. Rodriguez-Kiino notes that community college students do not graduate with an Associate of Arts (A. A.) degree, but rather usually intend to transfer to 4-year institutions (p. 8). In addition, she cites research conducted by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) noting that 65% of the system’s A. A. earners completed one or more of the 112 community college’s basic skills courses. Rodriguez-Kiino asserts that this result is due to the student support network within the California Community Colleges (CCC) that provide academic counselors who collaborate with instructional faculty towards the development of an educational plan and extracurricular activities that enhance URM successes.

The chapter also focuses on institutions providing URM students with academic and life support programs with student success at leading community colleges—Valencia, East Los Angeles, and the Community College of Baltimore County. This chapter begins with use of the term “minority,” which one of the co-reviewers finds problematic.


In Chapter Three, authors Pamela Felder and Jenna Tesauro provide a good review of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) programs available to community college transfer students and institutions—College Access Grant, Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship ($30,000), Graduate Scholarship ($50,000), and the Community College Transfer Initiative (CCTI awarded to elite 4-year institutions at $1 million each). Awarded institutions have developed “intentional programming” that “better connect [transfer students] beyond the classroom” (p. 56).

The authors only cite data from 4-year institutions with a higher capacity to better assimilate students into STEM employment. Recent community college degree completion and transfer data from the California Community Colleges (CCC) would most likely yield an increase in transfer rates among that system’s three-four million students.1 Chapter Five uses recent national data on community college students to attempt to highlight the factors that influence underrepresented racial groups. The chapter also lists STEM majors, which were Mathematics and Statistics, Physical Sciences, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Agriculture, Science Technologies, Engineering, and Computer Science. The list provided contains STEM disciplines—not STEM majors. The chapter further states that the lower proportions of community colleges “underrepresented minorities (URM)” students enrolled in STEM programs also lack an exposure to career possibilities in STEM.

Angel Rodriguez and Pilar Mendoza co-authored Chapter Six titled “Upward Bound: Programs that Increase Minority Students’ Completion of Degrees in STEM Fields.” This chapter describes a community college program to address students from an underrepresented group that needs to be successful in pursuing STEM majors. The co-authors use the term “minority” which is problematic for at least one of the reviewers. In addition, the authors discuss underrepresentation in general terms: unequal opportunities rather than equity issues, racism rather than oppression.


Chapter Eight, “Exemplary Practice for Seamless Pipeline Transitions between Community Colleges and Four-Year Institutions,” presents a strong literature review and research. The authors do an excellent job of reviewing the “transfer shock” phenomena and suggest experiences at the four-year level that assist in the student’s new-research-focused environment (p. 150). Also, four-year orientation programs benefit transfer students by making them aware of student support services. The authors cite Tsui (2007) in identifying “the main components needed to support STEM student success: (a) research with faculty; (b) internships; and (c) summer-bridge programming” (p. 156).

Chapter Nine, “Pathway to the Baccalaureate: Fostering STEM Success,concerns the transfer from a community college to a four-year college as well as the importance of community college counselors and university counselors advising students with up-to-date transfer information across campuses. The authors Jaime Lester and Tanneh Kamara present “Individual Barriers to Transfer” (p. 165). According to the authors, a disconnect exists between the positioning of headings within “Institutional Barriers” and “Removing Structural Barriers.”

Dawn R. Johnson concludes the book with Chapter Thirteen, “Community Colleges and the Education of Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Programs.” Normally, the last chapter of an edited book would summarize the book and answer the question: “Where do we go from here?” Instead, it is only in tmhe last chapter that the reader finds the definition of STEM. STEM includes “agricultural, biological, and physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, ocean sciences, computer sciences, mathematics, statistics, and engineering” (p. 252). It is one of the shortest chapters in the book because it targets the attainment of STEM degrees of women of color in community colleges.


1. See CCCCO Scorecard


Bidwell, A. (2015, January 9). Obama’s community college plans builds on state efforts. US News & World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/09/president-obama-announces-plan-for-tuition-free-community-college

Koebler, J. (2012, January 25). Obama pushes STEM in State of the Union. US News & World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/stem-education/2012/01/25/obama-pushes-stem-in-state-of-the-union

Tsui, L. (2007). Effective strategies to increase diversity in STEM fields: A review of the research literature. The Journal of Negro Education. 76(4). 555-581.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 31, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18087, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 6:36:47 PM

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About the Author
  • Mary Atwater
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    MARY M. ATWATER is a professor of science education in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education, College of Education at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA. She is president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), an inaugural Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She led the effort to establish NARST’s first research interest group, Continental and Diasporic Africa Science Education, and served as its elected chair until she was elected president-elect of the organization. She has been the Principal Investigator or co-Principal investigator of several federally funded and privately funded grants totally over $3.76 million dollars. In 2014 Atwater received a supplemental grant of $ 57,515 to the $100,000 National Science Foundation grant in 2012. This addition augmented the original grant focused on initiating mini-symposia to develop scholars of color in science education. Her publications include articles, book chapters, an edited book, and a co-authored K-8 science program. She recently co-edited the 2014 book, Multicultural science education: Preparing teachers for equity and social justice. She will serve as the future lead editor of the CADASE’s sponsored special issue of a journal with a working title of Science education and the African Diaspora: A critical global perspective.
  • John Colson
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    JOHN COLSON is the founder and a consultant with Colson Educational Consultants. He has 20 years of administrative experience within community colleges in Georgia and California since earning his Ed.D. at the University of Georgia’s Institute for Higher Education. His experience includes 8 years as the Chief Student Services Officer for three different community colleges. Prior to this he has served as an Assistant Dean of Students, Director of Student Life, and Interim Dean of Counseling. He currently assists colleges in interim administrative leadership roles and provides consulting services relative to communication, strategic planning, student code of conduct development and adjudication, Title IX compliance, and building trust among leadership teams.
  • Barbara Rascoe
    Mercer University
    E-mail Author
    BARBARA RASCOE is an Associate Professor and Science Educator in Tift College of Education at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. She has a B.A. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a M.A. in Science Education from East Carolina University, and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Georgia. She has taught science methods at SUNY – Buffalo and science in K-12 rural and urban schools. Dr. Rascoe’s research trajectory involves examining performance dynamics that affect Black males in science learning environments, issues relative to the ethnic/gender performance gap, the language of science, the history and nature of science, and cultural capital variables that impact science performance. She has published articles and made conference presentations that reference Black males’ science performance, scientific literacy, science knowledge transformations, myths of science, shaping science curricular reform, products/processes of science, and STEM education.
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