Utah Pathways to STEM Initiative

The Utah Pathways to STEM Initiative (UPSTEM) is funded by a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence initiative. UPSTEM supports faculty learning communities, inclusive curricula, and improved degree pathways for pre-transfer and post-transfer students from Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).

Questions? Contact upstem@csme.utah.edu

In 2015, a third of the U’s undergraduates were transfer students with 44% of these students coming from a single institution, Salt Lake Community College. Nearly a quarter of SLCC transfer students enter into BS degree programs in the natural sciences, but only 21% of these students graduate within two years of transferring to the U. These metrics highlight the need to focus on transfer student success and present a unique opportunity to make systemic improvements across both institutions that will positively impact a significant portion of the student population.

Nationally, underrepresented students make up a majority of the transfer population. The need for the UPSTEM initiative is especially critical at the U where, despite the rapid growth in the minority populations in the state, minority enrollments remain relatively low. With an ethnic population of 21.3%, SLCC has the most diverse student body among Utah institutions of higher learning, yet only 15% of the students that transfer from SLCC to the U are from these underrepresented groups.

The UPSTEM Initiative focuses on building pathways to STEM degrees from SLCC to the U (and beyond) that help transition and support these diverse learners and enable them to succeed.  UPSTEM intends to approach these issues by 1. Create clear, fully articulated pathways to STEM degrees 2. Increase data collecting and sharing capacity between SLCC and the U 3. Prioritize recruitment and support of underrepresented transfer students 4. Assess the campus culture for inclusion of transfer students 5. Create “expert” disciplinary advisors 6. Facilitate professional development for faculty.

Approach 1: Clear articulated pathways to STEM degrees

The UPSTEM Initiative has initiated a cross-institutional collaboration to design fully articulated degree pathways that transfer directly to the University of Utah’s College of Science majors.

Approach 2: Increase data collecting and sharing capacity

The UPSTEM Initiative will create a new cross-institutional STEM Data Team that will establish common definitions of data elements, proper controls, and data sharing agreements that enable effective collaboration.

Approach 3: Curriculum for transition and inclusivity.

UPSTEM has a unique opportunity to create a model curriculum that both helps transition transfer students to the University of Utah and employs best practices in inclusive pedagogy.

Approach 4: Assess the campus culture for inclusion

UPSTEM will conduct a longitudinal assessment of the culture of the College of Science to identify specific needs for institutional change and student support. We will also coordinate existing resources for STEM transfer students and catalyze initiatives for new scholarships and research opportunities.

Approach 5: Professional development for faculty

UPSTEM has built a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) that is committed to discussing and solving issues related to STEM teaching and learning, transfer student support, and best practices in inclusive pedagogy. Find out more information on the current cohort of Faculty Fellows here.


FLC Intended Learning Outcomes:

  1. Apply inclusive teaching strategies in their class;
  2. Implement effective mentoring and advising strategies with students and colleagues;
  3. Advocate for cultural, departmental and institutional change towards inclusion in STEM;
  4. Be leaders of inclusive practices in their STEM field.


Approach 6: Advising and Support for Transfer Students

Transfer student resources can be found here.