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Early Career Summer Interdisciplinary Team Experiences and Student Persistence in STEM Fields

STEPS (Students Targeting Engineering and Physical Science) is an NSF-funded program designed to increase the number of California State University Northridge students getting bachelor's degrees in the natural sciences, mathematics, engineering and computer science. The greatest loss of STEM majors occurs between sophomore and junior- years, so we designed Summer Interdisciplinary Team Experience (SITE) as an early career program for these students. Students work closely with a faculty mentor in teams of ten to investigate regionally relevant problems, many of which relate to sustainability efforts on campus or the community. The projects emphasize hands-on activities and team-based learning and decision making. We report data for five years of projects, qualitative assessment through entrance and exit surveys and student interviews, and in initial impact on retention of the participants.

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