The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), a 78-year old, general academic component of The University of Texas system, is a comprehensive university serving over 17,000 students annually, of which more than 85% are of Hispanic origin. In fact, UTPA educates the most Mexican-American students in the nation. UTPA is located in Edinburg, Texas, the county seat of Hidalgo County, the most populous of the four counties comprising the area known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The southern border of Hidalgo County is the Rio Grande River, the international border between Mexico and the United States. UTPA is the only comprehensive university in the seventh most populous county in the state and enrolls the highest number and highest percentage of Hispanics among Texas public universities.
Increasing the number of Hispanic students successfully
engaged in STEM fields is a national priority from many points of view. From an
economic competitiveness point of view, it is widely known that the future of U.
S. competitiveness hinges on the ability of the educational system to generate
the technical workforce that will support the innovation needed to remain
competitive. From the social view point, Hispanics are historically known to be
under represented in STEM fields and the fastest growing segment of the
population. From a regional perspective, the need for STEM graduates is critical
to the future sustainability of the development of the region as a leading
manufacturing hub for North America. From any perspective and given the
demographics of the region there is no better region in the United States to
support efforts to increase the number of Hispanics in STEM fields than the Rio
South Texas Region.
With this in mind, The University of Texas–Pan American and South Texas College (STC), a two-year HSI, are collaborating on a number of efforts to facilitate student engagement and success in STEM areas. With both institutions located in Hidalgo County and having well over 80% Hispanic student populations (approximately 70% of whom are first generation college students), the purpose of this Cooperative Arrangement Development Grant proposal is to develop and support strategies that will facilitate the success of Hispanics and other low income students in STEM areas. In order to do this the focus of the efforts will be to support four activities that constitute An Integrated STEM Pathways Support Initiative for the Rio South Texas Region. The first activity will enhance student services to foster success in Calculus I as it is known to be a roadblock for student success in STEM fields. The second activity will support the implementation of Challenge-Based Instruction (CBI) in selected courses. CBI is known to be a more effective approach to the learning process. The third activity will support faculty development through workshops on CBI techniques with a focus on increasing student success, and finally the fourth activity will grow and support pathways to STEM fields between STC and UTPA. As an integrated project in support of student success in STEM fields, the proposed project will provide a model that will have a significant impact on the number of STEM graduates and that will be simple to replicate in other geographical areas.