Abstract Title

Helping students beat the odds: Large scale Freshman Research Initiative improves student performance and persistence in the sciences

Presenter Name

Jessica Hartos, PhD

Abstract

Purpose: The U.S. is not producing enough graduates in STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) fields to meet current and projected needs. The Freshmen Research Initiative (FRI) is a large-scale undergraduate research program that involves students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in authentic research in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, astronomy, and math beginning early in their undergraduate career. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of FRI in improving undergraduate student persistence and success in the sciences.

Methods: Using data from 2006 to 2012, we assessed whether participation in FRI showed differences in passing gateway courses, accumulating credit, remaining in academic track, maintaining adequate GPAs, and obtaining a degree. Multiple logistic regression analyses with adjusted odds ratios (AORs) were conducted to determine any significant differences in outcomes between FRI participants and all other students in their CNS entering freshman cohort after adjusting for demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs.

Results: Differences in demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs were found between FRI participants and non-FRI participants. However, after adjusting for all factors related to demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs, FRI participants were significantly more likely to have desired outcomes such as having a GPA ≥ 3.0 and graduating with a science degree within four years and were significantly less likely to have undesired outcomes such as having a GPA < 2.0 and failing science classes.

Conclusions: The results indicate that FRI participation was related to improved undergraduate student persistence and success in the sciences. Programs like FRI may help students overcome risk factors such as lack of college preparedness and underrepresented status, and, thus, address our national shortage of STEM graduates.

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Helping students beat the odds: Large scale Freshman Research Initiative improves student performance and persistence in the sciences

Purpose: The U.S. is not producing enough graduates in STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) fields to meet current and projected needs. The Freshmen Research Initiative (FRI) is a large-scale undergraduate research program that involves students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in authentic research in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, astronomy, and math beginning early in their undergraduate career. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of FRI in improving undergraduate student persistence and success in the sciences.

Methods: Using data from 2006 to 2012, we assessed whether participation in FRI showed differences in passing gateway courses, accumulating credit, remaining in academic track, maintaining adequate GPAs, and obtaining a degree. Multiple logistic regression analyses with adjusted odds ratios (AORs) were conducted to determine any significant differences in outcomes between FRI participants and all other students in their CNS entering freshman cohort after adjusting for demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs.

Results: Differences in demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs were found between FRI participants and non-FRI participants. However, after adjusting for all factors related to demographic characteristics, college preparedness, and participation in other college programs, FRI participants were significantly more likely to have desired outcomes such as having a GPA ≥ 3.0 and graduating with a science degree within four years and were significantly less likely to have undesired outcomes such as having a GPA < 2.0 and failing science classes.

Conclusions: The results indicate that FRI participation was related to improved undergraduate student persistence and success in the sciences. Programs like FRI may help students overcome risk factors such as lack of college preparedness and underrepresented status, and, thus, address our national shortage of STEM graduates.