A New Model for a University 2 + 2 STEM Degree Program

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: A New Model for a University 2 + 2 STEM Degree Program

Name of Author: Jennifer Drew
Author Company or Institution: University of Florida
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: Genomics Distance Education transfer online education Microbiology

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Sebastian Galindo-Gonzalez, University of Florida Eric W. Triplett, Professor, University of Florida

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Our original efforts began with the development of a single undergraduate course, Bacterial Genome Sequencing & Analysis, in 2006, and without a doubt, the original vision of that course has prompted a cascade of changes and resulted in a cultural shift in our department to one of continual reassessment and improvement of our educational programs. Our vision has expanded far beyond this original course to the departmental level by revamping the entire curriculum, establishing a campus-wide minor program, and expanding the reach of these reforms with a distance degree program. Our overall objective is to demonstrate the success of a new model of increasing the number of STEM graduates and the diversity of graduates while upholding high degree standards and maintaining a cutting-edge curriculum.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The University of Florida Microbiology & Cell Science Distance Education B.S. degree program officially began in Fall 2011 (https://microbiology.ifas.ufl.edu). This program is designed for Associate of Arts graduates to transfer into UF as distance students to complete the remaining two years towards their B.S. degree in MCS. The primary advantage and unique feature of this program is that the students will earn a 4-year degree from UF without relocating to Gainesville because the majority of the coursework is taught by distance. Often our best research universities, particularly public research 1 universities, are located in small college towns located over 100 miles from the major urban centers of their respective states. We believe that the physical and cultural distance between many public research 1 universities and the country's major urban centers is a leading impediment to the recruitment of outstanding low-income students of diverse backgrounds to the STEM disciplines. We hypothesize that by bringing the curriculum to qualified students through distance education, we can increase the number and diversity of microbiology graduates. We are forming partnerships with all 28 of Florida's community colleges to expand this program, but the first and most significant partnership is with Miami Dade College (MDC), the largest minority-serving institution in the US with over 170,000 students. Miami Dade College and UF signed an articulation agreement in 2011. We work with administration, faculty, and students to design elements of the degree program that specifically address the needs of the underrepresented population of MDC.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Outcomes will be determined by evaluating endpoints of total number of majors, total graduates, time to graduate as well as data from long-term tracking of graduates. Program quality, enrollment numbers, as well as retention and recruitment strategies are being thoroughly assessed by an experienced evaluator.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: To date, 47 students have enrolled in the online program, and four have graduated. The online program is increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. Currently, 26% of enrolled students are Hispanic, which is an increase over the baseline proportion of Hispanic students at the University of Florida (18%). The long-term success of this program will be watched carefully by the institution. Many other departments are interested in adopting this model of degree delivery if this program proves a successful and sustainable endeavor.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: We have recognized some barriers to success and have developed strategies to overcome those barriers such as improving administrative services (admissions, financial aid) and steadily encouraging faculty buy-in for online teaching formats. Enrollment numbers are increasing steadily, and beginning in March 2012, a marketing firm with expertise in online degree programs began to promote the program to help with recruitment. Numbers are now increasing at a faster pace, and interested students from Florida and across the nation inquire about the program daily.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Since 2008, aspects of these curriculum efforts have been published in peer reviewed journal articles and presented in local and national conferences such as the American Society of Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators and the NSF TUES Conference in 2013. Currently, a manuscript is in preparation describing the creating of a new model of a 2 + 2 program in STEM. Future plans include additional publications and meeting participation.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge three awards from the National Science Foundation from the Division of Undergraduate Education: Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Instruction (CCLI) Phase 1 (DUE 0737027), CCLI Phase 2 (DUE-0920151), and STEM Talent Expansion Project (STEP) grant (DUE-1161177).