Icon for: Janet Yowell

JANET YOWELL

Creating Academic Pathways in STEM (CAPS)
University of Colorado Boulder
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Janet Yowell

    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 04:57 p.m.

    All, thank you for viewing our video. We are excited about our project and how we hope to make tremendous gains in our state and for our university on how two-year transfer students experience the transfer process and how welcomed they feel when they arrive at a four-year university, as well as progress for our state on how to streamline the process for all institutions. Our project also places great emphasis on faculty and peer mentoring, academic monitoring, financial awareness (scholarships, research opportunities, summer stipends, etc.) and general resources for navigating a four-year university.

     

    Feedback on our video and suggestions on above very welcome.  We're particularly interested in how others have created successful pathways with their state departments of education, industry and communities (if not already published as a best-practice) for two-year students to pursue STEM bachelor's (and above) degrees at four-year universities.

     
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  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 17, 2017 | 11:44 a.m.

    Hi, Janet. 

        Your video got me interested in the question of 2-yr transfer.  I was left with a couple of questions. 

    First, what are the critical barriers or inhibitors that you've identified and aim to address-- is it related to getting students to think about making such a transfer at all, or is it more related to what the experience of transferring is like?

    Second:  Is there something about STEM majors that makes them more (or less) interested in (or eager to) transfer?

     

     
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    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 12:23 p.m.

    Brian,

     

    Thanks for viewing our video and posing a couple of questions.

     

    With regard to your first question, the answer is yes and yes! Our project includes a "recruiting" component at community colleges. We know that getting students to consider our university is the first hurdle, as we have to overcome the stigma that we are "so much more expensive" than other universities in the state (we are not, but it's long, long MISperception about our school). Then getting them to consider STEM degrees is next--actually in tandem with the recruitment. We are the flagship university for our state with tremendous STEM research opportunities, and a high graduation rate. We simply need to overcome the entrance barriers (BIG task!).

     

    Next, transfer students' experiences once on campus comes next, as transfer students report that they often feel unwelcome on campus... we are diving into this now to understand what is at the root of that feeling of unwelcome. We are working to put programs in place that provide mentoring, academic monitoring, campus navigational skills, financial opportunities, and a host of other small, yet mighty, steps to make their transfer successful.

     

    Your second question leads to the state of our state's economy. We are bursting at the seams with STEM job opportunities, and struggling to fill the positions available. Our workforce development agencies, in conjunction with state agencies, is doing a great job of publicizing how valuable it is to have a STEM education post high school -- students are interested, we just have to get them on to earn a 4-year degree after starting at a community college. It's a win win for everyone: the student, the 2-year college, the 4-year university, and our state.

     

    Let me know if you want more information. Thanks!

     
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  • Icon for: Joni Falk

    Joni Falk

    Co-Director of CSR at TERC
    May 17, 2017 | 01:27 p.m.

    Such an important project and I love that your presenter says this is a decade long commitment. Change takes time. Did Obama visit your project? More important, do I understand that you are building a network of community colleges that partner with University of Colorado? If so, is that partnership relatively new? I know the INCLUDES projects were just recently funded? You mention that there are more STEM jobs that can be filled. Are you creating a STEM internship program with industry for HS, Community College and for students at University of Colorado Boulder from underserved populations? There are so many ways to take this so would be interested to know which are your first priorities. Very interested to follow this project as it progresses. Thank for this video!

     
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    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 02:55 p.m.

     Joni, thanks!

     

    No Obama did not visit our project (I wish though!). He visited our campus a couple of years ago, and I pulled the video from his visit to Boulder off our university news channel.

     

    You are mostly correct... we are forming networks with the five major Denver-metro community colleges to create an intentional community invested in transfer student success. Each of these colleges has relationships with our university, but we are formalizing the partnerships through our CAPS project. So while they are loosely already partnered with us, we are taking those partnerships a step further to create a holistic model for support for 2-year students. Having said that, we are not excluding the other 8 community colleges in our state (there are 13 total), we're just focusing now on the low-hanging fruit at the colleges who are located closest to Boulder.

     

    STEM internships will be brokered through our CAPS project with various industry partners and national labs in/around our area and made available to community college students who pursue 4-year degrees at our university (albeit internships with the same are currently available to University students through myriad programs that already exist). Since we are focusing on underserved populations, these internships will most definitely serve the same targeted students, providing opportunities that may not exist at their smaller colleges. 

     

    One thing that I'd like to state is that while our project initially is focused on CU Boulder, we aim high, and hope to create a transfer model that can be replicated at all 4-year universities in our state.

     

    Hope this answers your questions... thanks for having me articulate our work!

     
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    Joni Falk
  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 07:10 p.m.

    This is a really interesting undertaking, and I agree with Joni that this is such a rich opportunity that I'm sure the temptation is to think of 17 other things that would also be fascinating to start in on!

    You mention that one of your big tasks is to overcome entrance barriers--can you say a little more about what you mean here? I wasn't sure whether you meant the barriers to convincing students from community colleges that they should consider matriculating to Boulder, or that there were challenges related to student preparation for coursework at Boulder and/or students' sense of belonging. With regard to the latter, it would be great to hear about your early take on this challenge as you dive into this question. 

     
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    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 11:48 a.m.

    Lynn,

     

    The entrance barriers come in many forms, even what you mentioned above. An entrance barrier to overcome is definitely the stigma associated with our university (in that it's expensive, among others), student preparation  in the sense of coursework (and to reiterate, it's not because of the students' own capabilities, but from different course resources available to them; e.g., lack of using cadavers in a biology lab or experience with/access to specific instrumentation modules), and finally to the confusion on the transfer process steps: which courses transfer to the core, to the major itself or to electives; the application due date vs. acceptance vs. confirmation vs. course registration; among others. The process itself can be a bit wonky, so our goal is to streamline the process to make it be more transparent and seamless for students who may not possess the savvy navigational skills to wade through the steps without guidance.

     

    Lastly, regarding student's sense of belonging: yes, that is another hurdle. Students report that they don't feel that they fit in on our campus. They are, essentially, similar to first-year (freshman) students at this point, but are sometimes skipped over in the process -- they don't quite relate to the same first-year events that happen, yet they need to know about some similar things: how to navigate the huge campus, how to use the bus system, where is/how to use the Rec Center, but also where is daycare on campus, where are veteran services, where is a public microwave, how to get off-campus housing, etc. It's been challenging to get transfer students to attend events for first-year students because they aren't really first-year students. Their needs a similar, yet vastly different. It seems to boil down to some extent to logistics and opportunity; that the transfer students need similar targeted guidance as first-year students. We aim to provide/orchestrate both: opportunity and guidance. There are many, many invested people on our campus to create more programming and events for transfer students, and this year will be a big year for changes/improvements. And, lastly, we, as a university culture, need to overcome our own issues of not providing better guidance for these students for myriad challenges they face as well as respect their choice to start at a two-year college and finish at a 4-year university.

     

    Thanks!

     
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  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 10:36 p.m.

    Janet

    I love big audacious goals and this project qualifies for that! Rock on UC Boulder! I appreciate your responses already and those forthcoming to Lynn's questions above. The statistics you share are compelling and those related to the Lt. Governor's portion of the video carry across the nation...we do need to encourage, recruit, and generate systems and structures that support more diversity in STEM careers and 4 year degrees!

     

    I will be curious to hear what you think are the factors that make students feel "unwelcome"...you seem to have the academic, financial and logistical side covered with mentoring, monitoring, counseling, etc. I wonder...do you think there may also be a "social integration" component too (such a HUGE part of undergraduate college life), and maybe a "big step up" from a CC campus to a major 4-year institution? If other students that begin as freshman at UC Boulder by year 3 have formed their club/fraternity/community service/intramural or dorm friendships...could this be a factor too?

     
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    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 12:01 p.m.

    Albert,

     

    Thanks! Yes, please see my response to Lynn Goldsmith above about the "unwelcome" issues. The formed student community is a HUGE part of undergraduate college, so cohort building is in our plans for certain. We know that getting them knitted into a group early on is very important, so we plan to start that early at the community college and continue to same cohort groups on campus. We have some innovative strategies that we want to put in place (some novel and some tried and true) that I believe will help with this step.

     

    One thing I didn't mention in the social side of things is the emotional well being and social aspects of students to feel accepted and that they can do it (the whole self-efficacy piece). We intend on providing social-emotional support of these students every step of the way. We've had three events to kick off our project: a satewide summit (clips from in our video -- we know we have strong support from stakeholders), a co-institutional Advisor meeting (all want to do what is best for students and make the students' 4-year experience a success) and most recently, a CU Faculty Meeting (MOST understand and acknowledge that the transfer experience is less than perfect and are willing to contribute to improvements in the process). So, I really am confident that big changes are going to happen in the next 6-9 months. (More to be known after a few upcoming meetings happening in the next few weeks :-)

     

    Thanks for viewing/asking.

     
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    Albert Byers
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 01:39 p.m.

    Outstanding...I know I was asking a pretty obvious questions and it's great to hear all the support (social) you effort is providing. I wish you all the best of success...and appreciate the additional information for myself and the other readers!

     
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    Janet Yowell
  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 10:58 p.m.

    Great video, Janet & team. The numbers of transfer students to CU Boulder seem terribly small (6%). With increasing tuition rates it seems like the numbers would go up just because it is so much more cost effective to cover the basic courses at an inexpensive CC.

    It would be great to have some context - what is the national percentage of 4YC graduates that transferred from a CC? What are high transfer rates? And what do the colleges do differently than CU to encourage the transfer? I know these are big questions but I am curious what your thoughts are why CU has such a low rate (if it is a low rate in comparison...). Thanks again - an amazing project. 

     
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    Janet Yowell

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 02:03 p.m.

    Anne,

     

    I agree, one would think that the numbers would go up as students find it increasingly more difficult to take on the burden of a four full years of student loans at a university-rate cost of tuition. It's mind boggling.

    Nationally, as of 2014, nearly 50% of bachelor's degree earners has previously been enrolled in a community college. In Colorado, only 28% of transfer students earn a Bachelor's degree after transfer (at all 4-year institutions); yet at CU Boulder, 64% of our cc transfer students earn a BA/BS. There are more numbers based on the number of years at a CC vs. the years to degree completion, etc., but that's a snapshot.

     

    We have been reviewing best practices at successful colleges across the nation and talking to groups about their successes and challenges. The programming behind them all is similar (high touch), just the processes for implementation vary based on the university culture, targeted population, and even location. See thread comments above for opinions/results on specifics at CU Boulder. There are so many invested people, as you know, we just have to align all the processes to make it easier for transfer students to navigate the murky transfer waters and understand their options. When a student hits the initial roadblock of failing to understand "how" to make their transfer happen (or gets shut down along the way), the whole ideas is often dead on arrival. We aim to change that through CAPS. Again, progress is happening -- baby steps, but it's happening for certain. :-)

     

    Thanks!

     
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