Exploring Faculty Insights Into Why Undergraduate College Students Leave STEM Fields of Study - A Three-Part Organizational Self-Study




Martinez Ortiz, Araceli
Sriraman, Vedaraman

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The Clute Institute


An institutional self-study at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) explored factors thought to impact students’ decisions to persist in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study. This self-study is presented as a model first step for Institutions of Higher Education interested in launching efforts to improve STEM education and STEM student success and persistence. A methodology combining qualitative and quantitative analysis approaches was used to examine different aspects of the overarching research question, “Why do undergraduate students leave college STEM fields of study?” A quantitative review of institutional data was used to identify four particular gaps in student persistence and success in STEM fields of study at Texas State University. An online survey and a focus group guide were developed based on existing but more broadly focused instruments and used to collect faculty insights regarding faculty and student experiences and possible reasons for student attrition in STEM. A review of retention theories was undertaken to better inform the process of generating remedies to the STEM persistence issue. Data were collected and analyzed separately for each component to produce two sets of findings. Findings indicated that there were retention issues in regard to STEM majors in general and underrepresented student groups in particular. Underrepresented students do not pursue STEM degrees percentage wise in comparison to other degrees. The self-study and retention theories suggest the following remedial measures: supporting faculty to transform their teaching, providing supplemental instruction in math and science and including discipline specific introductory courses and early internship experiences.



persistence of college students, STEM, organizational self-study, faculty surveys, engineering education


Martinez Ortiz, A., & Sriraman, V. (2015). Exploring Faculty Insights Into Why Undergraduate College Students Leave STEM Fields of Study- A Three-Part Organizational Self-Study. American Journal of Engineering Education (AJEE), 6(1), 43–60. https://doi.org/10.19030/ajee.v6i1.9251


Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering
Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
Engineering Education