College transfer partnership supports STEM-proficient workforce

A five-year higher ed project is launched by colleges to recruit Hispanic students into associate degree programs

The STEM workforce was about 8.6 million in 2015, and is projected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Borough of Manhattan Community College and The City University of New York are stepping up to try to fill the need for more STEM workers in the coming years.

The institutions launched a five-year project, beginning in 2016-17, to recruit Hispanic students into computer information systems and media arts and technology associate degree programs.

The colleges then facilitate transfers to related bachelor’s programs at CUNY schools such as New York City Technical College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and others.

The program prepares students to become computer programmers, analysts, information technology specialists, database administrators, cybersecurity specialists and network engineers, among other careers.

The project is funded by a $6 million HSI-STEM and Articulation Program Title III grant from the Hispanic Serving Institution program of the Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.

“The Hispanic population is underrepresented in the STEM fields in general, and, in particular, in the technology field,” says Erwin Wong, dean for academic programs and instruction at Borough of Manhattan Community College and project director for the grant.

“For STEM to advance, it is vital that the people in the field are diverse and representative of the country as a whole.”

The Digital Pathways Project will implement a summer bridge program that features free instruction, small class sizes and tutoring. An enhanced academic advising component is integrated with instruction and capped at 22 students per cohort.

In the first year of the program, 2017-18, students will be placed in blocked schedules, in which a CUNY Pathways course will be linked with an introductory course in their respective majors. 

The blocked scheduling aims to encourage integration of learning across courses and to promote vertical instruction, involving more in-depth learning and discussions that extend beyond the classroom, says Wong.

Students also receive supplemental instruction from successful former students in the major as well as mentored research, summer research methods workshops and internships. 

“Studies have shown that cohort models enhance student persistence, retention and graduation,” says Wong. “The cohort admission-and-academic model enables the students to share experiences and create a learning community, thus building strong bonds and a good support structure.”


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