STEM Models of Success: Programs, Policies, and Practices in the Community College
reviewed by Mary Atwater, John Colson & Barbara Rascoe - August 31, 2015
Title: 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
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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.
STEM AND CALIFORNIAS MINORITY POPULATION
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 Chancellors Office (CCCCO) noting that 65% of the systems A. A. earners completed one or more of the 112 community colleges 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 collegesValencia, 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.
GRANTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
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 institutionsCollege 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 systems 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 disciplinesnot 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.
FOUR YEAR COLLEGES AND STEM SUCCESS
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 students 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.
Bidwell, A. (2015, January 9). Obamas 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.