A $3.4 million grant will fund additional advisement at UNM and CNM for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors.
Director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Undergraduate Pathway (STEM UP) Carolina Aguirre said the STEM UP program will increase advisement to students in STEM fields. She said the institutions received the grant from federal Title V funds last October and have been working since then to organize the program.
Associate Provost for Curriculum Gregory Heileman said STEM field degrees are becoming a top priority as fewer and fewer Americans graduate with degrees in STEM fields.
“President Obama is really pushing this, so there is a lot of funding available, because the United States does not produce enough people in the science and engineering fields to fill the jobs we have and it’s incredibly deficient,” he said. “It’s something like 50,000 short of what we need annually.”
Aguirre said the program aims to alleviate stress that students who transfer from CNM to UNM might experience during the transfer process. She said the program will allow CNM students to better understand the requirements they must meet for a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields and make better use of their time at CNM.
“The goal is to get them to leave CNM ready to go directly into their program so they do not spend time anywhere else,” she said. “In the past, all of their courses would transfer over because that’s the state law; however, just because it transfers it doesn’t mean it’s going to give you any momentum to completion of a (Bachelor’s of Science).”
Aguirre said the program is also an effort to increase retention and graduation rates.
“We’re trying to increase enrollment, we’re trying to increase retention from the first year to the second year at both institutions and graduation rates, which means associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees,” she said.
Aguirre said the program has a STEM adviser at CNM and intends to hire another. She said an adviser will also be available at UNM to receive the transfer students and advise them once they have transferred.
“Our advisers have a really high (student-to-adviser) ratio and they’re seeing a lot of students,” she said. “Adding another adviser in there just to pitch in and say ‘ok well I’ll focus on the STEM students’ will hopefully contribute to a better advising experience overall for all students,” she said.
This adviser will be available at the new Transfer Center opening in October.
The Transfer Center will be housed in Mesa Vista Hall within the College Enrichment and Outreach Programs’ offices. Aguirre said the program will target Hispanic and low-income students, but that the advisement services will be available to all students in STEM fields.
“The focus on Hispanic is important because that is the largest growing population and it needs to be the fastest growing educated in STEM fields as well,” she said.
The program will target these students by visiting various STEM classrooms at CNM a total of 800 times in a semester to inform students interested in STEM degrees about the program, she said.
Additionally, STEM topic workshops at CNM will be offered to students by professional tutors who are active in the target demographics.
Aguirre said the initiative will first offer transfer services for biology majors, because most STEM field students major in biology. She said that in the future, STEM UP will include services for engineering, chemistry, physics, nutrition, environmental science and planetary sciences.
Aguirre said the program includes a data-sharing agreement between both institutions to track the success of students and the initiative. She said it will also offer peer mentors to students who feel they need more support.
UNM student Cesar Octavio Silva said he will be one of the peer mentors and will visit CNM to inform students about the program.
“We’re going to be having walkabout where we talk a group of 10 to 15 students on small campus tours where we can show them exactly where the departments are that they’re interested in and that pertain to their majors,” he said.
Silva said STEM UP would have helped him when he transferred into the engineering department at UNM. He said he was unfamiliar with the University’s advisement policies, which confused him when he transferred from CNM.
“I ran into some trouble transferring over with the consortium agreement and with academic holds that I had no prior experience with,” he said. “I think that this program is going to help smooth out some of those obstacles.”
_For more information on the STEM UP program, visit its headquarters at 1716 Las Lomas Blvd. N.E. or call