Factors that contribute to persistence and retention of underrepresented minority undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)

Sidney Kirk Mitchell


The objective of this research was to identify specific factors that contribute to underrepresented minority (African American, Hispanic, Native American) undergraduate students. success in STEM disciplines at a regional university during the 2007-2010 timeframe. As more underrepresented minority (URM) students complete STEM degrees, many will possess the skills to become part of the domestic human capital needed to meet U. S. workforce demands and enhance the nation.s STEM innovation. According to Burke and Mattis (2007), the lack of URM students in STEM education and in the workforce is one of the major contributors to STEM shortages in the United States. In this study, the investigator employed a sequential mixed method design to comprehensively examine which specific factors contributed to URM student success in STEM. Mixed methods design was necessary in order to capture the complexities of factors contributing to URM persistence and retention in STEM disciplines. Data collection and analysis was conducted to address four research objectives in two distinct sequential phases. In Phase I, quantitative analysis of archival data (taken from the regional university.s ISIS and SAM databases) was used to explore the impact of specific factors on URM student persistence and retention. Logistic regression was used as the statistical procedure to examine objectives one and two. In Phase II, qualitative data were collected and analyzed using a nominal group technique. The researcher met with eighteen URM students (11 African American, four Hispanics, and three Native American) and posed two questions based on the quantitative findings as to why they persisted and were retained in STEM disciplines. This study was designed to help students and this institution better understand how URM students can navigate and overcome barriers to obtaining STEM degrees. According to George, Neale, Van Horne, and Malcolm (2001), tapping the reservoir of URM could help in meeting the STEM workforce demand as these minorities continue to show great increases in college enrollment. The findings for objectives one and two revealed four factors that were statistically significant contributors of URM student success in STEM disciplines. They included college GPA, academically rigorous curriculum, percent of hours completed, and percent of hours passed. The findings of objectives three and four revealed the top five rankings of URM persistence and retention factors in STEM success. The researcher employed a nominal group technique to collect and analyze this qualitative data.