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Un Sendero Luminoso: A Bright Pathway to STEM Success

This five year, $4.3 million dollar federal Title III STEM grant will enable Norco College to develop a new Pre-Engineering program of study, and to revise 4 existing programs (Digital Electronics, Architecture, Engineering Technology, and Construction Technology) each resulting in articulation agreements and a 2+2 pathway to local universities. The grant will also support the creation of a STEM Center to facilitate student success in science and technology fields, a new MESA student support program, a summer bridge component, and transfer counseling assistance.

Grant Abstract

Participation in emerging STEM fields is dependent on educational attainment. However, Hispanic educational achievement is not keeping pace with this demand: only 8% of Hispanic adults in the service area hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to 21% of adults overall. Consequently, Hispanic per capita income is only two-thirds of the overall service area figure of $22,827. While more Hispanic students in the area are enrolling in college, data from area high schools demonstrate that many underperform in mathematics, and, when they do enter college, they enter underprepared to succeed in core courses required for STEM degrees.

Norco College has a mandated responsibility under California State Law to prepare its students for transfer to the region’s three public universities, but gaps in pre-engineering curricula, facilities, and equipment are preventing us from fulfilling this responsibility at the highest level. In addition, review of best practices that support student success, retention and transfer for Hispanic and disadvantaged students in STEM courses/programs reveals deficiencies in Norco’s ability to support these learners.

Norco’s proposed project, Un Sendero Luminoso, responds to these deficiencies in three ways. (1) Working collaboratively with faculties from the region’s three pubic universities, we will redesign curricula to create a rigorous, culturally responsive pre-engineering associate degree for direct transfer, along with four pre-engineering degree options in alternative energy, engineering technology, and sustainable engineering. (2) Student success for Hispanic and disadvantaged learners will be developed through adoption of the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) program; 100% of California Community College student participants on other campuses which have adopted this program successfully transferred to a 4-year institution, 60% of these in a STEM major. We will address college preparedness through expanded outreach that supports students in completion of college algebra and trigonometry during high school. (4) We will develop a centralized STEM Learning Center that includes dedicated open labs, tutoring, technology/software, career advising and counseling, and transfer activities.

The proposed project directly addresses both HSI STEM absolute priorities and competitive preference priority regarding data-based decision-making. Project design and evaluation is based on the USDE’s conceptual framework of evaluation for project services. Evaluation design provides for the timely collection of both quantitative and qualitative data that supports data-driven decision-making. Faculty training is provided in how to use data to determine effective strategies for improving student success.

For more information, contact Lorena Patton, Project Director,