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Wang awarded grant to study community college STEM pathways

May 14, 2013
by Kari Dickinson

Xueli Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and a scholar with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE), has been awarded a grant from the Association for Institutional Research and the National Science Foundation to study course-taking patterns among community college students planning to transfer into baccalaureate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Wang’s research will focus on beginning community college students preparing to transfer into four-year STEM majors. Looking at students’ choice of courses in community college, Wang will examine how their course-taking patterns map against successful upward transfer, persistence and attainment of STEM degrees at four-year institutions.

The project will use powerful data mining techniques underutilized in higher education research to analyze complex transcript data and offer new insights into course and program features, and contribute to effective baccalaureate STEM pathways for community college students.

In recent years, researchers and policymakers have grappled with how to address the shortage of college students pursuing STEM degrees. Wang stresses the importance of community colleges for increasing participation in these fields, especially for low-income and minority students who are currently underrepresented.

“These two-year institutions have great potential to help increase both the number and diversity of STEM graduates nationwide,” says Wang.

Community colleges enroll over eight million students annually, including 43 percent of all undergraduates and a disproportionately large number of minority students.

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