The Importance of Faculty-Student Connections in STEM Disciplines

  • Barbara L Christe
Keywords: education, student enagagement, student retention, relationships


Despite an alarm raised by Seymour and Hewitt (1997) describing science, engineering, and mathematics programs as chilly and unwelcoming, students continue to report significant feelings of hostility and a lack of caring when characterizing the professor-student relationship. The negative feelings correlate with poor course performance, lower grade point average, and attrition from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines (Micari & Pazos, 2012; Vogt, 2008). A review of the scholarly research may offer educators compelling evidence to change attitudes that are currently characterized with an expectation of attrition as a natural and useful action in an environment that places retention responsibility onto students. In contrast, a shift to a professor-student connection featuring a supportive and caring relationship can promote student success. To decrease attrition and meet employer demands for graduates, STEM disciplines must seek a change in academic culture away from survival of the fittest to a nurturing experience that supports achievement.