BASE (Broadening Access to Science Education): A Research and Mentoring Focused Summer STEM Camp Serving Underrepresented High School Girls

Shelley Anne Phelan, Shannon M Harding, Amanda S. Harper-Leatherman

Abstract


BASE (Broadening Access to Science Education) Camp is a hands-on two-week residential summer science experience on the Fairfield University campus, in Fairfield CT, USA. The annual program targets 24 young women who attend high school in our neighboring city of Bridgeport, CT, the most economically depressed city in CT. The camp, which is free to students, includes three components. The first is the week-long Research Immersion Experience, which engages students in faculty-mentored science research projects assisted by current undergraduate STEM majors. The second component is Career Exploration, which allows students to explore a variety of careers in science, technology, and healthcare, as well as the academic paths required to get there. The third component is College Admissions Counseling, which links campers with Fairfield University’s undergraduate admissions staff for mentoring on the college application process. This program is particularly unique in that it rests entirely on a female staff, engaging Fairfield University’s women STEM faculty and undergraduate STEM majors. BASE Camp was founded and developed through funding from several organizations, and is currently supported by a five-year R25 grant from the NIMHD (National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities), National Institutes of Health. After four years in this format, the program has engaged close to 100 young women. Data collected show nearly 100% camper satisfaction with the program. In addition, we found the camp increased camper perception of their science knowledge and confidence, as well as understanding of skills required to succeed in careers in science and health. Finally, in a follow-up survey we found that 95% have applied to, or plan to apply to, college, and 87% are interested in pursuing a STEM or health-related career. The close mentorship of these young women by female role models at the faculty and undergraduate levels has greatly contributed to the success and efficacy of this experience. We hope our program can be used as a model for others to create programming in an effort to promote and support underrepresented women in the pursuit of STEM careers.

Keywords


STEM; summer; camp; high school; URM

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JSTEM. ISSN: 1557-5284