Creating a Culturally Responsive Learning Environment for STEM

As part of the FUERTE project (Fostering Undergraduate Education, Retention, and Transfer Environments) at St. Mary’s University, Dr. Alexandra Coso Strong (Florida International University), and Dr. Meagan Kendall (University of Texas at El Paso) facilitated a workshop Nov 17 and 18 at St. Mary’s University.

The following faculty/staff members from Northwest Vista College participated in the workshop with the St. Mary’s faculty.

  • Kevin Roark – Computer Science

  • Mark Jurena – Engineering

  • Richard Crabb – Learning Assistance Services

  • Diana Kersey – Arts

  • Vicki Lynton – INRW

  • Julie Moore-Felux – English

  • Valerie C. Gomez – English and INRW

  • Kim Linsenbardt – Anthropology

  • Paul Northway – Arts

  • Kimberly G. Beza – Economics

  • Mike Munoz – Economics

  • Elsa Maldonado – Education

  • Mary Zocchi Math Faculty and FUERTE co-PI

  • Thomas Pressly Engineering Faculty and FUERTE Co-PI

The focus of the workshop was creating a culturally responsive learning environment for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students in particular, but the approach can be applied to any discipline. We, as participants, discovered ways to give all students respect and a voice as individuals. We explored the wealth that students bring to the classroom, and how to be Asset Focused. To do this, we investigated the Community Cultural Wealth approach: Aspirational Capital, Familial Capital, Linguistic Capital, Social Capital, Navigational Capital, and Resistant Capital. We are all looking forward to affecting change in our courses to be more culturally responsive to all students.

Project FUERTE is supported by the National Science Foundation (Award # 2122658) HSI Implementation and Evaluation Project: FUERTE: Fostering Undergraduate Education, Retention and Transfer Environments and is awarded to St. Mary’s University (Principal Investigator – PI – Dr. Juan Ocampo and Co-PI – Dr. Rick Sperling) with a co-award to NVC (Dr. Mary Zocchi co-PI and Dr. Thomas Pressly co-PI).

This grant has multiple goals.  One is to support the transfer of students from NVC to St. Mary’s thorough seamless transfer pathways. Through the grant, faculty and staff are trained and create and sustain culturally responsive classroom environments and a system of student support services. In addition, this grant aids student progression through STEM majors via stipends and research opportunities. As a result, the grant provides for building competency in STEM at both institutions.

NVC students who are considering transfer to St. Mary’s in a STEM major should apply to the program through the application on the NVC website. Although, the deadline for Summer 2023 internships has passed, students can still apply (but would not be guaranteed an internship.)

By Dr. Thomas Pressly

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