Increasing Participation & Persistence in STEM by Incorporating Field-based Experiences in the Urban Environment (IUSE)

Program Overview

Field-based experiences at Cal State LA are currently largely only provided to students in our upper-division courses. These courses are often small (16-24 students) and only serve students already advanced toward a specific major trajectory (e.g., Biology or Geology). While these experiences are highly valued by our students, the number of students choosing to pursue these majors is low and reflective of national trends for minoritized students in these sub-disciplines. We propose targeting lower division (1000-level) courses in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Natural Science programs at Cal State LA and Mt. San Antonio College. In doing so, we have the unique opportunity to not only expose students to field-based instruction and research but also engage them in ways that are not currently done with traditional lab-based activities. Thus, we hypothesize that providing field-based experiences to students in first-year gateway courses will yield increased persistence in STEM disciplines, regardless of whether their current course of study will involve fieldwork.

What Will The Program Provide?

  • Objective 1. Establish accessible field locations (hubs): we propose to develop field activities for lower division courses that are easily accessible to our student population, lessening the burden on them to dedicate additional time outside of class to attend trips. 
  • Objective 2. Develop hands-on field-based experiences for students through course redesigns of our introductory gateway courses to utilize the field hubs. Field experiences increase the sense of belonging by being more inclusive and building community through group projects.  
  • Objective 3. Minimize student-borne costs associated with participation in field-based experiences by providing students with basic field necessities, further reducing barriers to participation.

Expected Outcomes

We expect that our set of activities will work to increase persistence rates across the four majors (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geology and the Natural Sciences) present at the two institutions.  This will be due to the introduction of engaging field-course experiences that allow students to work in a group setting and connect to environmental issues in their local communities.  The second expectation of this work is that we will see increased fieldwork participation rates in the selected majors, which currently have low numbers of  BIPOC students at both campuses.  This latter expectation will be crucial to increasing representation of minoritized students, especially Latinx students, in the environmental workforce.