nsf1.jpgThere are many exceptional career opportunities awaiting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors, but not enough students are getting the message. For over two decades, declining enrollments and graduation rates in most STEM fields have been an issue of national concern.

Now, thanks to a $768,313 grant from the National Science Foundation, two CSUN colleges, Engineering and Computer Science and Science and Mathematics, will be implementing a multifaceted new project designed to do something about it. The two colleges joined forces to create a program that principal investigator Vicki Pedone, professor of geological sciences, and co-principal investigators Diane Schwartz, professor of computer science, and Werner Horn, professor of mathematics, hope will improve retention of majors in STEM fields, particularly in engineering, computer science and the physical sciences, and in turn increase graduation rates.

“The program components are designed to support academic success in mathematics and generate excitement and motivation among students to complete their major,” says Pedone.

Students Targeting Engineering and Physical Science (STEPS) is a four-part program that seeks to develop a campus support network that will encourage student success in STEM majors by fostering success in lower-division mathematics (the so-called gatekeeper courses), providing interdisciplinary team project experiences each summer, creating a Web site with information on STEM careers and opportunities, and offering STEM career seminars. All the activities are open to everyone except the summer component, which is restricted to engineering and physical science majors and will have a strong sustainability theme.

DSC7718.jpg“We want our STEM students to become enthusiastic and motivated about their major and career choices,” says Schwartz. “With our STEPS project, we plan to create a community of STEM majors.”