On July 27-29, 2022, the UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation’s (DTEI) Postsecondary Education Research and Implementation Institute (PERI2) hosted the Examining STEM Transfer Pathways Conference. Supported by the National Science Foundation, this conference brought together two- and four-year higher education institutions from across California to establish research partnerships between campuses and foster transfer student success, increase student participation in STEM, and improve student diversity in STEM fields.
About the Conference
The three-day conference was hosted in person at the UCI Anteater Learning Pavillion and welcomed administrators, STEM faculty, research staff, and faculty/staff involved in transfer student success from the following institutions: Orange Coast College, Riverside City College, Merced College, Mira Costa College, Bakersfield College, CSU San Marcos, UC Riverside, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, and UCI. This was one of the first events facilitated by the newly established PERI2 and highlights the campus’ continued shift towards leveraging data to improve student success.
According to conference organizer Sabrina Solanki, Ph.D., (PERI2 Academic Administrator), faculty and staff from these various institutions worked together to achieve the following objectives:
“Our conference goals centered around supporting transfer student success primarily at institutions who, like UCI, are Hispanic-Serving Institutions. First, we aimed to open lines of communication between two- and four-year institutions to expand participants’ professional networks. Second, we aimed to facilitate and foster the success of collaborative campus research communities. In this way, we could learn as a community how to better examine and evaluate strategies to support STEM transfer pathways.”
To accomplish these goals, each day of the conference centered around specific objectives that informed presentations and subsequent discussion sessions. On day one, participants used institutional data to determine the degree to which they supported STEM transfer students and identified obstacles within the STEM transfer-to-degree pathway. Day two focused on examining qualitative measures of STEM students’ success and identifying additional measures that need to be collected. Another major focus of this day was identifying the specific programs and policies at each institution that support transfer student success. Finally, the objective for day three was to develop an impact evaluation plan that each institution could use to grade the effectiveness of the transfer programs and policies they identified on day two of the conference.
Each day featured speakers who presented the work they were doing to support STEM transfer success. “Each presentation was not only relevant to our conference goals, but they also served as great springboards for each day’s discussion,” says Solanki, who also presented on day two. The DTEI and PERI2 would like to extend its deepest gratitude to all conference presenters, including:
- Xulei Wang, Ph.D.– Barbara and Glenn Thompson Professor in Educational Leadership, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Cynthia Mosqueda, Ph.D.– Faculty Coordinator, El Camino College
- Kameryn Denaro, Ph.D.– DTEI Project Scientist, UCI
- Vanessa Woods. Ph.D.– Associate Teaching Professor, UC Santa Barbara
- Wesley Jeffrey- Doctoral Student, UCI
Reflection and Next Steps
For conference organizer Brian Sato, Ph.D., (DTEI Associate Dean), the Examining STEM Transfer Pathways Conference was successful for several reasons. “This conference was critically important for establishing connections both within and between institutions,” he explains. “I believe that these connections will go a long way towards supporting transfer students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve their goal of earning a STEM degree. Ultimately, I think this conference represents a significant step towards the inclusion of those who often aren’t given a seat at the table.”
Participants also found value in the collaborative nature of the conference. Malaphone Phommasa (Assistant Dean for Academic Success Initiatives at UC Santa Barbara) noted:
“The conference agenda really helped facilitate conversations. There was lots of structured time to meet new people, which really opened my eyes to how we face similar issues but try to solve them in novel ways. I made connections with folks that I really feel will last beyond the three-day event.”
Similarly, Virginia White, Ph.D., (Biology Professor at Riverside City College) shared how the conference emphasized the benefits of inter-institution cooperation. “I thought the guest speakers were really well chosen and inspired a lot of great conversations about the importance of community colleges and universities working directly,” she said. “Most of the time we only think of the students at our campus, but not what happened to them before or where they will go after. This was an important reminder of how interconnected our goals as institutions really are.”
Moving forward, each institution will build upon the foundational work completed over the course of the conference. Brian elaborates:
“Each institutional team left with a plan to evaluate a specific program at their campus, and many were already setting up meetings with individuals who will help facilitate the success of these plans. We aim to check in with our attendees in the coming months to see how their plans are progressing and what areas we can continue to provide support. And, in line with the PERI²’s goals, we have outlined a research study to better understand the support structures and barriers to leveraging data in pursuit of transfer student success.”
To learn more about the Examining STEM Transfer Pathways Conference, visit the conference website. For more information on UCI DTEI and its resources to support UCI students and instructors alike, check out their website. Finally, to learn more about the goals and research objectives of UCI PERI², visit their website.