Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, The Ohio LSAMP Alliance is comprised of 10 partner institutions of higher learning. The 2020-2021 project-year marks the midway point of the initiative’s five-year continuation grant that started in September 2018 (initial grant funding began in September 2013). This report presents the results from the LSAMP Faculty/Staff Survey administered from the end of January through mid-March 2021. The purpose of this biennial evaluation activity is to obtain input about project implementation from a broader group of faculty and staff than is feasible through the annual partner interviews. A total of 99 faculty and staff at LSAMP partner institutions responded to the survey of the 187 invited to do so. The overall response rate (53%) is lower than prior years, but it is noteworthy that the total invited to participate is substantially higher, which suggests that more institutional personnel are involved in LSAMP programming.
The results of the Faculty/Staff Survey show ample evidence that the 10 partner institutions of The Ohio LSAMP Alliance are making consistent progress on the grant’s six objectives. Overall, average ratings on every grant objective were “high” (4.40 to 4.96 on a six-point scale). Survey participants gave the highest ratings to how the initiative has facilitated URM STEM students’ access to faculty-mentored research (Objective 4: 4.96, 70% high impact) and to innovative, evidence-based, high-impact recruitment and retention practices (4.94, 62% high). Significantly more coordinators and steering committee members gave high ratings to Objective 5 (prepare URM students for and facilitate seamless transition into STEM graduate programs) and Objective 6 (develop and implement an alliance-wide communications plan); respective “high” ratings on Objective 5 were 96 percent for the most active group and 66 percent for the less LSAMP-involved respondents (average was also significantly different, 4.91 versus 4.14) and 90 percent to 67 percent on Objective 6. Respondents also attributed strong LSAMP impacts beneficial to URM STEM students at their institutions in undergraduate research (62%), faculty mentoring (57%), and partnerships between LSAMP Alliance community college and four-year partner institutions (50%).
The greatest reported gains in URM student participation this year occurred in activities designed to aid their transition from community colleges to four-year institutions (43% increase), summer bridge or early arrival program (41%), courses/workshops designed to prepare students for STEM research (40%), and social activities for STEM students (40%). Faculty and staff also reported growth in the involvement of URM students in undergraduate research (38% increase for 1st and 2nd year students and a 37% increase for 3rd and 4th year students). All respondents (100%) reported LSAMP made a difference in the presence of URM students in training programs for peer mentors, STEM professional conferences, and activities designed to aid the transition of students from two-year to four-year institutions.
Most striking in 2021 is the increased attribution of LSAMP as a factor. Compared to 2019, a higher proportion of respondents credited LSAMP with an impact on nine of the 16 activities covered (10 percent or more higher). Highlights included greater attribution of LSAMP’s impact on activities aiding the transition of URM STEM students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions (up 26%), training programs for peer mentors (up 25%), STEM or professional conferences and training programs for faculty mentors (both up 18%), and tutoring and supplemental instruction in non-STEM courses (up 17%).
Additional findings emphasize the positive impacts of LSAMP programming, activities, and strategies that support the achievement of the alliance’s six objectives:
- Eighty-three percent of respondents had experience mentoring URM students (42% did so regularly) reflecting a continued high level of faculty and staff involvement in mentoring LSAMP-eligible students. Approximately half (49-57%) gave high ratings to faculty mentors’ ability to explore career paths/graduate school options with mentees, instruct mentees on study skills/time management issues, train mentees in skills needed by STEM professionals, monitor mentees’ academic progress and challenges, and their overall effectiveness mentoring this group of students. Slightly fewer viewed faculty as highly prepared to help mentees connect with needed resources (44%) and teach skills related to conducting research (40%). Notably, only 28 percent of the respondents perceived faculty mentors as well equipped to help mentees manage financial stress or assist them with mental health/social isolation issues. This year, those less active in LSAMP (the majority were faculty) were significantly more likely to be personally involved in faculty mentoring (69% versus 41% of those with LSAMP leadership roles).
- Faculty/staff respondents gave the highest priority to professional development on how to help mentees deal with issues of racism, discrimination, and bullying (69%), followed by assisting mentees with mental health/social isolation issues (62%), career exploration and graduate school planning (60%), academic progress and challenges (59%), and student professionalization (57%). Just under half wanted training to strengthen their knowledge of the skills students need to conduct research and manage financial stress (49%) and assist mentees with study skills and time management (48%).
- Overall opinion about The Ohio LSAMP Alliance website was more favorable this year, reflecting an improved user experience from recent upgrades. Ninety-eight percent agreed it was easy to navigate the site and find needed information (compared to only 81% and 69%, respectively, on the 2019 survey). This year, most respondents confirmed that the information and resources were useful to students (97%) as well as themselves (93%), visually engaging (93%), content reflects alliance successes to various stakeholder groups (92%), and articles are well written and up-to-date (86%). Notably, more than three-quarters (79%) agreed the website had a sufficient level of interactivity with social media compared to only 35 percent of respondents previously.
- Respondents reaffirmed their positive opinions of The Ohio LSAMP Alliance leadership and management. All confirmed that they received answers to their questions about LSAMP, data and information requests are reasonable, and that the leadership team is effectively managing the project and addressing partners’ needs. Ninety-six percent indicated the weekly Ohio LSAMP Alliance Insider newsletter is helpful. All 27 who confirmed steering committee attendance indicated that the information provided is useful, the online format was effective, and the meetings have been a worthwhile use of their time. Steering committee members agreed that their questions about LSAMP were answered and that the meetings were well organized and gave them a better understanding of alliance plans for achieving its objectives. Ninety-three percent viewed the number of annual meetings as reasonable.
- Opinions were mixed as to whether the summer bridge/early arrival programs, held remotely in 2020 due to the pandemic, achieved the goals that in-person programming did in prior years. While the respondents confirmed that the virtual summer bridge familiarized students to learning in an online environment, strengthened their math skills, helped them build relationships with faculty and peers, and informed students about campus resources, they also acknowledged the limitations of this format. Respondents found that non-academic social interaction and bonding between students could not be replicated at some institutions, zoom fatigue impacted attention and participation, and students with limited technology and/or internet were disadvantaged in the remote learning setting.
Respondents’ recommendations on ways to improve implementation of The Ohio LSAMP Alliance in Year 4 of the continuation are synthesized below: