Fostering Adaptive Expertise to Increase Retention and Graduation of Low-Income STEM Students

Project Details


This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at Stevens Institute of Technology. Over its six-year duration, this project will fund scholarships to 50 unique full-time students who are pursuing bachelor's degrees in S-STEM eligible disciplines spanning math, science, and engineering. After their first semester of study at Stevens, low-income students who meet eligibility requirements will be able to apply for up to seven semesters of scholarship support. The goal of the ADAPT program is to increase retention and graduation rates of low-income academically talented STEM students. Project activities will include the adoption of best practices with regards to mentoring programs to support the ADAPT Scholars and the development of targeted enrichment activities focused on fostering the characteristics of Adaptive Expertise within the Scholars. Additionally, the project team expects to integrate new programming specifically supporting low-income students with existing campus supports and to implement modules to increase departmental and institutional awareness of the challenges faced by low-income students. The program will contribute to the STEM knowledge base of how academic departments and universities can better support low-income STEM student persistence through graduation. Key elements of the program may be replicable by other universities seeking to better support the success of their low-income STEM students and will be adaptable to support other underserved and vulnerable STEM student groups.

The overall goal of this project is to increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with demonstrated financial need. Three specific aims of the project are to adapt best practices to create a supportive and nurturing Scholar environment, to develop activities focused on fostering the characteristics of Adaptive Expertise within the Scholars, and to increase departmental and institutional supports for low-income students. In the learning science literature individuals with Adaptive Expertise complement the content knowledge of an expert with additional, specific cognitive dispositions which support the application of this content knowledge in practice. The project's theory of action is that a well-designed faculty, peer, and alumni cohort/mentoring program specifically targeting the development of Adaptive Expertise will increase the sense of resiliency in ADAPT Scholars and support persistence towards undergraduate degree completion. A targeted research study will track changes in adaptiveness in the ADAPT Scholars throughout their studies while indicating which programming elements are most effective in supporting such student growth. If successful, the proposed effort could lead to a replicable and scalable national model of how facilitation in the growth of Adaptive Expertise can support low-income students through completion of their STEM degrees. An integrated formative and summative evaluation component will ensure successful completion of project objectives. Dissemination efforts will share program materials and findings with the larger STEM educational community seeking to promote diverse and inclusive participation in STEM fields. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date6/1/225/31/28


  • National Science Foundation: $1,499,955.00


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