Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



First Advisor

Susan Marine


First generation students attending college have difficulties achieving academic success, engaging with their peers and persisting (Jehangir, 2010); are growing in number on college campuses; and are significantly underrepresented in STEM programs of study. This research examined the role that a STEM focused Learning Community (STEM LC) and student participation in Early College programs with STEM exposure have on first generation student achievement engagement and retention. The purpose of the project was to research and design a framework for a community college STEM LC for first generation students as a means to increase academic achievement and student retention for this vulnerable population. The study involved 18 sophomore and 20 first generation high school students enrolled in an Early College program; 18 first generation college students enrolled in STEM majors as well as a focus group of college faculty and administrators involved in an Early College program. The research confirmed that student interest in STEM subjects waned from middle school to high school. It also revealed that college students enrolled in STEM programs of study did not fully avail themselves of student services. At the same time however, the students expressed interest in participating in STEM focused student services if they were available at the college. Recommendations include the creation of a STEM LC for first generation students at the community college; retention of full time STEM LC and Early College Program Coordinators; and enhancement of the Early College Program to include more purposeful infusion of STEM activities into the curriculum.