Increasing the number and success of members of groups traditionally under-represented in science
In the late 1980’s we began to worry in an organized way about the lack of women and students of color among our science graduates. Data analysis indicated that there was no correlation of grades in introductory math and science courses with standardized exam scores or high school grades, but correlations with being a first generation college student, graduating from high school with < 50% college goers, or being a domestic student of color. Review of the literature and conversations with our students revealed barriers to the successful study of science to be: acclimation to student life and lack of supportive community, different learning styles, and lack of role models and contexts for the study of science. We devised a program to address these issues including: a pre-orientation program (The Grinnell Science Project, or GSP) to help students feel welcomed and socially prepared for the study of science at Grinnell, curricular and pedagogical changes involving more engaged learning to help address the multiplicity of learning styles, more opportunities of student-faculty research to provide more effective mentoring. Dramatic improvements to our facilities have created much more inviting spaces to build community and to support more engaged learning in classrooms and laboratories. Although we can draw no causal relationships, we find that grades of domestic student of color have improved markedly and the number or that group has increased by about a faculty of three. The number of women graduating with degrees in physical and computational science has increased by about a factor of two.