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Strategic Initiatives

STEM Starter Academy (SSA)

Overview

The goal of SSA is to recruit, ready, retain and graduate a diverse body of community college students earning STEM certificates and degrees and transferring to 4-year STEM programs or entering the workforce. The UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) serves as the external evaluator to determine SSA impacts and student outcomes.

Contact

David Cedrone
Associate Commissioner
Workforce & Economic Development & STEM
(617)-994-6904
dcedrone@dhe.mass.edu.

Allison Little
Assistant Commissioner
P-16 Alignment & Outreach
(617) 994-6935
alittle@dhe.mass.edu

Duration

2013 – Present

Funding

State

Links

 

Target Populations
  • Adult Learners
  • African American
  • First-Generation
  • Full-time
  • Latinx
  • Low-Income
  • Part-Time
  • Veteran
DHE Responsibilities
  • Access
  • Closing Achievement / Opportunity Gaps
  • Completion
  • Diversity
  • Equity Agenda
  • Readiness
  • Retention
  • STEM
  • Workforce Alignment
Partnerships

Public Community Colleges
University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute

Background

The STEM Starter Academy (SSA) program is an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) that began in 2013 through the leadership of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and support from the Massachusetts Legislature. In partnership with the Commonwealth’s community college system, the purpose of STEM Starter Academy is to recruit, ready, retain and graduate a diverse body of students earning STEM certificates and degrees who go on to transfer to a 4-year STEM programs and/or enter the workforce. The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI), under contract to the DHE, is engaged as an independent evaluator of the SSA initiative to provide formative and summative assessments of program practices and student outcomes.

The Importance of STEM in Massachusetts 

Jobs that require a strong foundation in STEM education are increasing in number, expanding into new fields and transforming traditional careers. Massachusetts needs a robust, diverse and growing STEM workforce to sustain our economy and advance the Commonwealth’s reputation for innovation, globally. Community colleges are a critical source for Massachusetts STEM ready talent pipeline.

The SSA program engages students from communities and groups that are underrepresented in the current STEM workforce - people of color, women, adult learners and other students who may not previously have considered STEM fields to be of interest or accessible to them. SSA is changing the landscape of pathways to STEM careers.

Many community college students are uncertain of their skills, potential and career interests and need to attain positive educational outcomes that reinforce a commitment to higher education. Too often, students are unaware of available support resources or how to access these resources to promote their success. SSA provides a suite of intentional support services to promote equitable success outcomes for underrepresented student groups.

Massachusetts needs STEM education programming that attains relevant scale and serves students across the Commonwealth, sustainably. SSA has developed a collaborative learning community of program administrators, faculty, student leaders and employer partners who are on-course to define, implement and share best-practices - affecting segment-wide, system-level and labor-market aligned outcomes.

Goals, Key Strategies, & Trends

The goal of SSA is to expand the pipeline of students who are aware of, interested in and prepared to pursue rigorous certificate and degree programs at Massachusetts community colleges, leading to careers in STEM fields. Three key strategies are employed to achieve this goal, (1) engage a more diverse population of students from groups underrepresented in the STEM workforce and from underserved communities across the commonwealth, (2) promote positive, equitable outcomes through the design and deployment of intentional supports, (3) replicate and sustain the impact of SSA through best-practices, at scale, statewide. Indicators of success related to these strategies are highlighted, below.

Expand and Diversify the STEM Student Pipeline
  • SSA has served over 23,000 students* in total, more than 8,000 in academic year 2017-2018
  • SSA students represent the diversity of the commonwealth’s community college population:
    • 50% are students of color (28% women)
    • 54% of all participants are women
    • 33% are over the age of 25
    • 54% enroll part-time
  • The proportion of students enrolled in STEM majors at community colleges increased from 29% (2014) to 31% (2018)
Achieve Positive Outcomes through Intentional Supports
  • SSA provides summer bridge experiences to engage, excite and prepare students to successfully pursue STEM pathways at community college
    • 25% of entering SSA students are undeclared majors – these students are exploring the possibilities of STEM careers
    • 50% of SSA students are declared STEM majors – they need intentional supports to persist, complete and transition to 4-year programs or the workforce
  • Over 13,000 students* have received intentional SSA support services through their participation in the program
  • SSA defines positive student outcomes as retention, graduation, transfer to a university STEM program, or employment in a STEM industry
    • From 2014-2018, 4,813 students completed a degree or certificate and 5,736 students transferred to a 4-year institution
    • Four years after joining SSA, 49% of students completed a degree or certificate or transferred to a 4-year program
  • SSA participants were 1.6 times more likely, overall, to achieve a positive outcome** after one-year, African American students were 2.6 times more likely and LatinX students were 1.4 times more likely
Attain Relevant Scale Serving Students across the Commonwealth – Sustainably
  • SSA Programs, personnel, and practices are deeply integrated into the STEM infrastructure of the community colleges
  • Campus visions for SSA have coalesced around a common program model emphasizing locally contextualized implementations, at-scale
  • Community college students are increasingly engaging in research experiences in partnership with 4-year institutions
  • 300+ industry partnerships have been developed through SSA
  • 130+ students were placed in industry sponsored internships (2018-19)

Evaluation and Outcomes

The Department of Higher Education (DHE) has partnered with the UMass Donahue Institute to evaluate impacts and outcomes associated with the STEM Starter Academy grant. The Donahue Institute provides formative and summative feedback on program development and outcomes, as well as targeted technical assistance. The Donahue Institute collects feedback from participants and administrators through surveys, interviews, select site visits, and concise structured reports. The evaluation supports DHE’s efforts to develop evidence-based best practices, to promote the use of best practices at participating institutions, and to disseminate information about these practices to the broader STEM community.

PDF Equity and Diversity Report (2019)

PDF Impact and Value Report (2019)

The Year 6 report will be made available on this page in July 2020. Past reports are available by request to Allison Little (alittle@dhe.mass.edu)

Programs & Contacts

Use the contact information and website links below for questions about STEM Starter Academy, or to find a program near you.

Department of Higher Education David Cedrone
dcedrone@dhe.mass.edu

Allison Little
alittle@dhe.mass.edu
 
UMass Donahue Institute Jeremiah Johnson
jjohnson@donahue.umassp.edu
 
Berkshire Community College Nolan Fernandez
nfernandez@berkshirecc.edu
Program Website
Bunker Hill Community College Joye Thaller
jthaller@bhcc.edu
Program Website
Bristol Community College Kristin Almedia
Kristin.Almeida@bristolcc.edu
Program Website
Cape Cod Community College Bridget Burger
bburger@capecod.edu
Program Website
Greenfield Community College Dedire Murphy
murphyd@gcc.mass.edu
Program Website
Holyoke Community College Melissa Pacuilli
mpaciulli@hcc.edu
Program Website
Massasoit Community College Michael Bankson
mbankson@massasoit.mass.edu
 
MassBay Community College Valerie Kapilow
vkapilow@massbay.edu
Program Website
Middlesex Community College Sean Kenney
mayflower_72@hotmail.com
Program Website
Rebecca Newell
NEWELLR@middlesex.mass.edu
Mount Wachusett Community College Linda Scullane
lscullane1@mwcc.mass.edu
Program Website
Northern Essex Community College Carolyn Knoepffler
cknoepfler@necc.mass.edu
 
North Shore Community College Walter Stone
wstone@northshore.edu
 
Quinsigamond Community College Darcy Carlson
darcyltoupin@gmail.com 
Program Website
Roxbury Community College Hillel Sims
hsims@rcc.mass.edu 
 
Springfield Technical Community College Reena Rhandir
rrandhir@stcc.edu 
Program Website