Implement evidence-based practices (e.g., mentoring, peer support, internships) to increase numbers of individuals with disabilities moving through critical junctures to STEM associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees and careers. Student activities fall roughly into three categories:
- Short encounters to encourage students with disabilities to consider STEM and to recruit students with disabilities into project activities and to BC, SCCC, and UW.
- Workshops, mentoring, peer support, and other activities that encourage students with disabilities to pursue STEM degrees and careers; promote persistence; support students as they face challenges in STEM; and otherwise promote their movement through critical junctures to STEM associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees and careers.
- A comprehensive suite of activities in support of students with disabilities at partner institutions who are interested in STEM and have joined the AccessSTEM Team. Members engage in multiple activities: an e-mentoring community of peers and near-peers with disabilities and adult mentors; industry and research internships; workshops and presentations; and other activities as they transition to college, graduate school, and employment in STEM fields.
Evaluation Thus Far
Data collected includes feedback from participants in interventions and student progress in moving through critical junctures toward STEM degrees and careers.
It was expected that, by the end of the project, at least 1,650 students with disabilities (estimated to be 850 secondary and 800 postsecondary, including thirty-five veterans) would participate in project activities; the AccessSTEM Team would grow to a total of 270 members, some being project participants at partner schools and others serving as in mentoring roles; and students with disabilities would have engaged in at least ninety industry and research paid work experiences.
Project activities have reached more than 4,000 students with disabilities, including forty-eight veterans. There are 177 AccessSTEM Team members (133, including eight veterans who are project participants—students with disabilities at partner schools [BC: forty-three; SCCC: thirteen; UW: fifty-four; SPS: twenty-three] who are interested in STEM—and forty-four STEM students with disabilities at other schools who participate in mentoring roles). Participants have completed eighty-nine paid internships and other job preparation experiences.
Early Outcomes and Evidence of Impact
Data sources include ongoing participant surveys to collect perceptions regarding the impact of specific interventions on STEM interests and college and career success; participant interviews (in years 3-5) will be conducted to create case studies with rich details regarding conditions and interventions that promoted STEM college and career success. Multiple project activities have been evaluated by participants using standard instruments developed for this purpose. Engagements in the AccessSTEM Team e-mentoring forum, where more than 1,270 messages have been exchanged, have been observed to be rich, varied, and extensive. Topics discussed include STEM; scholarships; STEM courses and research, industry, and government internships; job interviews; assistive technology; personal progress in college and graduate school; other success stories; personal challenges; and requests for and offers of assistance.
Longitudinal Outcomes Study
Participants are encouraged to participate in the AccessSTEM/AccessComputing/DO-IT Longitudinal Transition Study (ALTS), where individuals who have benefited from NSF funding since 1993 are interviewed at multiple points in time to gather information about their progress through critical junctures toward college degrees, graduate work, and careers as well as their assessment regarding the value of specific interventions.
Tracking the Participation and Progress of Participants
Project staff track the progress of each AccessSTEM Team participant enrolled in a partner school through critical junctures to STEM degrees and careers and document their participation in specific project activities such as internships, peer and near-peer support, mentoring, and college and career preparation activities. Overall, participants are moving through critical junctures toward STEM degrees at a reasonable pace. Of the 133 AccessSTEM Team members at partner institutions, four have graduated high school and transitioned to partner colleges; four have completed technical or vocational training in STEM programs; five have received STEM associate’s degrees or transfer degrees to continue their STEM education, with two accepted to the UW; fourteen students have completed undergraduate STEM degrees at the UW; one has completed a STEM master’s degree and one has completed a STEM doctoral degree from the UW. The external evaluator regularly reviews this tracking data, that from ALTS, and results from other project methods, to draw conclusions regarding the impact of project interventions, in particular to look for evidence of correlations between the number and variety of interventions engaged in and the success in STEM degree and career attainment.