University of Colorado, Boulder

To expand the scholarly understanding of effective teaching and learning in STEM fields, and of undergraduate student persistence in STEM majors, by a combination of surveys, interviews, and classroom observations of students and faculty at seven colleges

  • Amount $666,956
  • City Boulder, CO
  • Investigator Anne-Barrie Hunter
  • Year 2012
  • Program Higher Education
  • Sub-program Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in STEM Higher Education

In the 1990s, the Foundation supported a project by Elaine Seymour and Nancy Hewitt of the University of Colorado, Boulder and Mark Connolly at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to conduct extensive ethnographies of students at seven selective colleges and universities to determine why majors in STEM fields switch majors for other areas. The results of their work, Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, provides one of the most interesting, comprehensive accounts of what factors drive retention and attrition among undergraduates in STEM fields. Fifteen years later, Seymour endeavors to return to this issue, updating the findings original reported in Talking About Leaving and expanding her analysis to include examination of efforts by professors, departments, and school administrators to shrink attrition in STEM fields. Funds from this grant provide partial support to Seymour, her colleague Mark R. Connolly, and their team to conduct a series of new interviews at the same seven institutions sampled in Talking About Leaving and to support their subsequent analysis of the data they collect. Their efforts promise to provide new insights into what has changed and what has stayed the same when it comes to why undergraduates pursue or abandon STEM degrees.

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