The particular changes to be implemented by this grant project are threefold:

1.    “Landing” courses, which represent prerequisites to challenging “gateway” courses in STEM disciplines, will undergo faculty-led redesigns at both institutions with the goal of better preparing students for their next crucial phase of training. Learn More

2.    Sustainable, student-led learning collectives will provide ongoing and supplemental tutoring, mentoring, and instruction to STEM students, who sometimes struggle to find the community and support that can be determinative of academic success. Learn More

3.    The ‘Bridge’ in Bridges Across Eastern Queens represents a commitment to constructing a cross-campus organization tasked with better tracking and assisting those dual-degree STEM students who begin their undergraduate careers at QCC before completing their baccalaureates at QC. This will be accomplished in part by clarifying the nature of articulation agreements between institutions and ensuring that students have in hand maps for reaching their academic goals. Learn More

From the HSI-STEM Project grant narrative:

Queens College (QC) is part of the City University of New York (CUNY)—the nation’s largest urban public university. We serve a predominantly undergraduate (82%) commuter (95%) student population. We also offer Master’s and graduate-level Advanced Certificate degrees, and participate in doctoral education through our consortial relationship with the CUNY Graduate Center, the system’s principal doctorate-granting institution. QC’s mission is to provide an accessible and affordable quality education to our local community.1 To meet this objective, we offer a rigorous undergraduate curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences, guided by a highly qualified faculty dedicated to teaching and research, and engaged with the regional intellectual, artistic, education, and business communities. Given our academic excellence, urban location, and affordable tuition, we are regularly recognized as a leading liberal arts college in the nation.

The changing demographics that recently earned us eligibility as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) have stimulated us to explore how changes in our instructional practices and institutional culture might better serve Hispanic and other underrepresented students. To this end, we are partnering with Queensborough Community College (QCC), our largest feeder institution, located a mere 4 miles east from the QC campus, in eastern Queens. QCC sends nearly 900 students to QC annually (23% of our entering students each year, 36% of our new transfers). The partnership furthers this project’s goals because it is primarily QCC students who have contributed to the recent rising proportion of Hispanic students at QC. The partnership also helps Hispanic and other students who begin their education at QCC: 40% of all QCC students who transfer to a Baccalaureate-granting institution come to QC.

Recent enrollment growth in our undergraduate programs in the sciences and mathematics, presents an opportunity for instigating change in practices in these areas to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students completing degrees in STEM disciplines. Our project design builds on evidence-based models that meet “moderate evidence of effectiveness” as set out by the What Works Clearinghouse , and is crafted to change our campus culture by improving student learning through improved teaching practices and an expansion of student mentoring and tutoring, while at the same time expanding and refining programmatic articulation from QCC to QC.

The project focuses on students taking courses in departments that house STEM degree programs at QC, and in related departments at QCC, but we anticipate that changing the culture in nearly 25% of our undergraduate programs will lead to broader effects. Two specific project goals will strengthen the QCC-to-QC STEM pipeline by:

  • Increasing the number of Hispanic and low-income students graduating with STEM
    Baccalaureate degrees, and
  • Increasing and improving the number and quality of articulation agreements for
    STEM majors between QCC and QC.

We derive these goals from the national need to produce more STEM graduates to meet workforce demands. Through its activities our project addresses head on the disproportionate attrition in STEM among traditionally underrepresented students and linked to current inefficiencies in transferring from two-year to four-year institutions.

The project will involve total of roughly 24,000 students taking entry-level STEM courses at QC (67% transfer, 39% low-income, 26% Hispanic) and at QCC (49% low-income, 32% Hispanic). Three interrelated activities target different aspects of these students’ experiences as they enter STEM disciplines:

  1. Improve Access: faculty will redesign courses that “land” students into STEM disci-
    plines, at QC and at QCC (courses that are prerequisites to gateway courses in STEM and STEM-related programs at QC in: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geology, Mathematics, Nutrition Science and Dietetics, Physics, and Psychology and Neuroscience)
  2. Improve Learning: we will develop sustainable learning collectives as platforms to provide supplemental instruction, tutoring, mentoring, and support to students
  3. Bridge: we will build and institutionalize a cross-campus organization that will both track and support students in STEM programs both at QC and at QCC, and that will also develop the curricular specifics (including assessment instruments) of articulation agreements leading to dual degree programs for STEM majors who begin higher education at QCC and complete the Baccalaureate at QC

All three activities use strategies designed to improve the success of traditionally underrepresented students, and the evaluation plan is designed to measure our impact on Hispanic and low-income students. This project draws insights from analyses we have carried out on student performance, analyses that identify curricular segments and transitions in our STEM programs that determine whether a student’s path is to success and graduation or into an academic “purgatory.” Our design is infused with components grounded on evidence-based research meeting the conditions of “moderate evidence of effectiveness” or higher. Our evaluation will employ a multi-site, block Randomized Control Trial design with cluster-level assignment to explore program impacts on the primary outcomes. This design was developed to meet What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservations.

At QC, the project will be conducted under the direction of the Office of the Provost, in collaboration with faculty from the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Center for Teaching and Learning, including faculty that belong to groups underrepresented in STEM disciplines. At QCC, the project will be managed through QCC’s Office of the Provost. QC and QCC personnel will collaborate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of all three activities, thus building sustainable structures bridging our two institutions, ultimately leading to system change.

Our College Presidents, Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez and Dr. Diane B. Call, are both invested in promoting curricular redesigns that bring equity of learning to low income and minority students. Recognizing that traditional pedagogies and institutional support structures do not satisfy student learning evenly, our respective administrations are fully committed to leading our college communities into pioneering a curriculum design that will have positive impacts on a significant segment of our student population.