Outcomes of Grinnell Science Project

From 1993 through 2015, over 800 students have participated in the GSP pre-orientation program. Thousands of other students have benefited from the curricular and pedagogical changes, as well as from the mentoring relationships that have been established by the Grinnell Science Project.

By promoting student achievement and excellence in teaching and learning, the Grinnell Science Project addresses the issue of increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce using a range of activities, all of which are rooted in intensive mentoring and building a community of scientists (students and faculty alike) that supports persistence in science through and after graduation.

Students in STEM

  • Prior to the Grinnell Science Project from 1992–1994, an average of 42 science majors graduated annually who were women and eight who were students of color. By 2015, those numbers had jumped to 77 women (an 82% increase) and 33 students of color (an over 300% increase).
  • The increase in science graduates since the inception of GSP has been nearly all non-white students; the proportion of white students graduating in STEM fields has decreased from 80% to less than 60%. See graphs at the bottom of this page.
  • Introductory math and science courses are gateways to STEM majors. When comparing the average grades of students of color to the average grades of all students in these introductory courses, grade differences between the two groups have shrunk from roughly 1.0 GPA unit to about 0.2 GPA units (for two multi-year periods in the past decade).
  • The proportion of physical and computational science majors who are women nearly doubled from percentages in the low 20s in 1990-1994 to about 40% currently (2016).
  • The percentage of science graduates who are first generation college students has increased from 12% in 2004-2008 (the first period of comparable data) to 16% in 2014-2016.
  • Of recent students who pursue graduate study, those who participated in the GSP pre-orientation program are more than twice as likely to do so in STEM fields compared to those who did not participate.
  • 68% of our science majors entered graduate degree programs (2005-2014), 54% in a STEM field (2000-2014). As reported by the National Science Foundation (Fiegener & Proudfoot, 2013), Grinnell ranks seventh on a per-capita basis among all U.S. higher education institutions in producing science graduates who go on to pursue a Ph.D.

Strong Commitment to Mentoring

In a survey of alumni who were peer mentors in the Science Learning Center, 87% responded they are currently working in science, teaching, practicing medicine, or in graduate training in those fields.

Curricular Change

Nearly every faculty member in all six science departments has implemented pedagogical changes, allowing students to experience engaging and inquiry-based approaches to learning. (Science departments at Grinnell College include: biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and statistics, physics, and psychology.) Extensive course revisions linked to GSP objectives include: Introduction to Biological Inquiry; General Chemistry; Fundamentals of Computer Science; General Physics; Introduction to Psychology; Functions and Differential Calculus; Functions and Integral Calculus; Molecules, Cells, and Organisms; Organisms, Evolution, and Ecology; Organic Chemistry; and Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP).

GSP Pre-Orientation Program is Part of Grinnell's Culture

  • Over half of all science faculty have participated in some part of the pre-orientation program.
  • Faculty directors for the pre-orientation program have included members from all six science departments. . (Science departments at Grinnell College include: biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and statistics, physics, and psychology.)
  • It is common for a faculty member to serve as a resource for a year or two, lead a research project during pre-orientation the following year, then serve as assistant director and eventually director, creating a cycle of faculty mentoring and leadership that strengthens the program.

Figures

For all figures: data for all science majors (biology, biological chemistry, chemistry, computer science, general science, mathematics, physics, and psychology) graduating with a BA degree in the academic year ending in the years indicated.  The majors are aggregated by ethnicity and converted to the percentage of the graduates in that period that fit into each category:  White, Foreign National (FN),  African American (Af Am), Hispanic (Hisp Am), Asian American (As Am), Native American (Nat Am), Unkown (Unk), and two or more (2+).

Percent of ethnic groups making up science graduates at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Bar graph showing ethnic composition of graduating classes of science majors, as a percentage. The percentage of white students has decreased steadily since the 1990s.

 

Percentage of ethnic groups making up science graduates at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Columns: Academic year of graduation.

Rows: Ethnicity.

1991-1995 1996-2000 2001-2005 2006-2010 2011-2015
White 80.4% 75.4% 67.9% 65.1% 58.2%

Foreign National

12.1% 9.1% 13.1% 14.3% 15.8%
African American 3.2% 3.5% 3.1% 3.6% 3.2%
Hispanic American 1.4% 4.5% 3.6% 3.1% 6.0%
Asian American 3.0% 5.7% 4.4% 6.3% 7.5%
Native American 0.0% 0.0% 0.5% 0.4% 0.4%
Unknown 0.0% 1.7% 7.5% 7.2% 4.6%
2 or more - - - - 4.2%

Number of science grduates at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Bar graph showing ethnic composition of graduating classes of science majors, as actual number of science graduates.

 

Number of science graduates at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Columns: Academic year of graduation.

Rows: Ethnicity.

1991-1995 1996-2000 2001-2005 2006-2010 2011-2015
White 406 433 418 464 452
Foreign National 61 52 81 102 123
African American 16 20 19 26 25
Hispanic American 7 26 22 22 47
Asian American 15 33 27 45 58
Native American 0 0 3 3 3
Unknown 0 10 46 51 36
2 or more - - - - 33

Number of science graduates of color at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Bar graph showing breakdown of students of color within graduating classes of science majors, as actual number of science graduates.

 

Number of science graduates of color at Grinnell College for class years 1991-2015.

Columns: Academic year of graduation.

Rows: Ethnicity.

1991-1995 1996-2000 2001-2005 2006-2010 2011-2015
African American 16 20 19 26 25
Hispanic American 7 26 22 22 47
Asian American 15 33 27 45 58
Native American 0 0 3 3 3
2 or more - - - - 33

Sources & Publications:

Swartz, J., Gregg-Jolly, L.A. (2018) A Comprehensive Model for Undergraduate Science Education Reform to Better Serve the Underserved. In Kishbaugh, T. L. S., Cessna, S. G. (Eds.) Increasing Retention of Under-Represented Students in STEM through Affective and Cognitive Interventions. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

DiBartolo, P.M., Gregg-Jolly, L., Gross, D., Manduca, C.A., Iverson, E., Cooke III, D.B., Davis, G.K., Davidson, C., Hertz, P.E., Hibbard, L., Ireland, S.K., Mader, C., Pai, A., Raps, S., Siwicki, K., Swartz, J.E. (2016) Principles and Practices Fostering Inclusive Excellence: Lessons from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Capstone Institutions.  Special Issue "Broadening Participation in the Life Sciences", CBE Life Sci Educ 15(3) ar44.  doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0028 

Gregg-Jolly, L., Swartz, J., Iverson, E., Stern, J., Brown, N., Lopatto, D. (2016)  Situating Second-Year Success: Understanding Second-Year STEM Experiences at a Liberal Arts College. Special Issue "Broadening Participation in the Life Sciences", CBE Life Sci Educ 15(3) ar43. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0044

Mahlab, M. (2010) Who Benefits? Peer Mentors at Grinnell College, CUR Quarterly 31(2), Winter 2010, pp. 7-10.

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