STEM Scholars Program Prepares Students for College Life

Published on

STEM Scholars is a new program at Aquinas that brings together selected students from underrepresented populations and provides skills development before they begin their first year studying STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) at the college level.

The inaugural group of eleven students spent three days prior to the start of the semester working with Aquinas faculty and staff to develop science-specific academic skills like reading, note-taking, and observation, as well as practicing teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving together. Participants were matched with an upper-class Aquinas student who worked with them during the program and will continue to provide mentoring and support throughout the academic year. Scholars explored the resources available on the campus such as the Library, Academic and Learning Services, the Counseling Center, and the Advantage Center.

The first class held their culminating banquet and celebration Wednesday evening at the Donnelly Center. Family members and other supporters were on hand to learn more about the STEM Scholars program and watch videos that the students created about how they feel their core strengths (revealed by the StrengthsFinder Test) will help them be engaged scholars during  their time at Aquinas.

Support for students in STEM fields is crucial for students’ success in college. Many students encounter challenges early in their college careers that can lead them to exit STEM fields or even leave college altogether, and these challenges are often unrelated to the subject matter or their academic abilities. Faced with these obstacles for the first time, students may question their suitability for and commitment to STEM fields.

Students who are equipped with multiple effective strategies for confronting challenges have greater persistence and higher rate of success. At least 15 Aquinas faculty and staff members interacted with the Scholars throughout the program, reducing the uncertainty and stress of the first day of class.  

Decades of data both at Aquinas and around the country show that students credit feeling like they know and are known by at least one faculty member as being the most important reason they persist at their particular institution. Therefore, one goal of the STEM Scholars program was to provide students with exposure to various science and math faculty.  

The program was funded by a grant from the Great Ideas Competition organized through an initiative that came out of the college’s strategic planning process and by the Dean of Science and Sustainability.

Prospective students who are interested in studying in the STEM fields at Aquinas can contact our Admissions Department at 616-632-2900 or admissions@aquinas.edu. For general program inquiries, please contact STEMScholars@aquinas.edu.