WOOSTER, Ohio – The College of Wooster’s success in mentoring underrepresented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields is gaining notice of late, as one of its initiatives was recognized with an “Inspiring Program in STEM” award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and statistics from a Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) report position Wooster as a national leader in sending its women graduates to STEM-related doctorate degrees.
In the September issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, Wooster is praised for its STEM Success Initiative (SSI) and was one of a select group that received an award “presented to institutions whose programs inspire a new generation of young people to consider STEM careers as well as support working professionals in the field.”
The magazine noted approximately 35 percent of today’s Wooster students earn bachelor’s degrees in one of the STEM disciplines, which consist of biochemistry and molecular biology, biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental geoscience, geology, mathematics, neuroscience, physics, and statistical and data sciences. It went on to describe SSI, first conceived when a group of professors and staff noticed students losing motivation in STEM early in their undergraduate careers, as a program that now provides strong support in introductory courses through the STEM Scholar Zone, a collaborative learning community where students, faculty, and staff discuss and put into action best practices for approaching STEM. The SSI also supports faculty development in inclusive teaching techniques and promotes ongoing discussions related to inclusivity and community-building in STEM in collaboration with the Minorities in STEM student organization.
“The STEM Success Initiative has been tremendously successful, significantly improving the retention of students in their field of choice and building inclusive excellence inside and outside the classroom. I am very grateful to all those who have led and supported this program,” said Sarah Bolton, president of Wooster.
Additionally, Wooster performed exceptionally well in the CIC’s June report, titled “Strengthening the STEM Pipeline Part II: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges in Preparing Underrepresented Students in STEM,” which explored the outcomes for women and underrepresented minorities using datasets from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Science Foundation.
Many of the results reveal Wooster’s STEM program as one of the best in the U.S. Among hundreds of similar-sized baccalaureate institutions from 2007-16, Wooster had the third-highest percentage of women graduates go on to earn chemistry doctorates (based on institutional-yield ratio) and the sixth-highest rate of women graduates who went on to complete doctorates in the physical sciences. Wooster was also top-50 in the categories of women graduates who earned doctorates in the life sciences (42nd) and biological sciences (47th).
Overall, Wooster ranked No. 21 among women graduates from 2007-16 who are doctorate recipients in one of the STEM fields.
“We are very proud that we are helping to support the academic success, identity development, and sense of community of STEM-interested students at Wooster by providing responsive programming for students, faculty, and staff. We strive to support all STEM-interested students with a special emphasis on supporting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields and thereby help to diversity the scientific community of the future,” commented Laura Sirot, associate professor of biology at Wooster and chair of the advisory board for the SSI.