STEM Learning Community: An Interdisciplinary Seminar for First- and Second-year College Science Majors

  • Jon K Piper Bethel College
Keywords: career, collaborative, curriculum, research, undergraduate


To attract and retain more academically qualified students to science and mathematics, we developed a merit-based scholarship program for incoming students with STEM interests. Scholarship recipients participate for the first two years in an interdisciplinary learning community and declare a STEM major by the sophomore year. STEM Learning Community, a year-long course initiated in fall 2009, has become a permanent part of the College curriculum. Content consists of weekly meetings for discussions and presentations on such topics as scientific ethics, relationships between science and technology, the nature and history of science, and the interplay between scientific discovery and societal development. A major component is a group research project conducted during the school year and presented at our annual undergraduate research symposium. In addition, we provide career counseling, visits and presentations by STEM professionals, and internship opportunities. Students report that they are developing such valuable skills as problem solving ability, communication skills, collaboration, and knowledge of the research process. Enrollment and graduation data show that numbers of participants, especially women and minority students, increased during the first four years. The results suggest that scholarships combined with engagement in collaborative undergraduate research are a useful tool for enhancing STEM recruitment and persistence.

Author Biography

Jon K Piper, Bethel College
Professor Department of Biology