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Amber Leigh Ortiz, UNM-STEM, 4/23/2012

Program: STEM-UNM

Audience: Faculty Advisors, Chartered Organizations (SACNAS), and volunteer STEM students

The biggest problem I see with incoming students is a sense of confusion. Students feel lost in the sea of over 29,000 students. As a past incoming student I never felt I knew where to find information and what I was really doing. After signing up for many open houses I found, luckily, a department I want to be in.

First though, most students come in looking to find a major by the end of the first of second year. But, students have to narrow done from 9 different departments and 89 different degrees to ONE.

I was lucky; I entered into a program following my senior year in High School previously known as Summer Introduction to Science, Mathematics, and engineering. This program gave me an advantage of having a group of students I could share my struggles during my college career and also I learned about a few good engineering advisors but, that was only for a summer and as for my fellow group of students we only took about one class together.

So, what else do lead and direct them through the college process...? ORIENTATION!

Unfortunately, orientation targets all 29,000 students for all 89 degrees and is therefore extremely vague. Only handling basic student handbook rules, where to buy lunch and where the library is (because according to LOBO orientation Zimmerman is the one all students use). This lies at the heart of the problem on campus. Have no place to go for specific help in the STEM field. A stem student has 1-2 advisors of a total of 14 STEM advisors. If students are not clearly aware of where to go for help but also what is available then we see a loss of students. UNM reports that 25% of all incoming students do not comeback after their first year.

Having been a STEM student for the last 6 years (6 due to changing my major in my senior year) I have seen firsthand where information lacks. In order to obtain all the information a student may want and need, he/she must speak to multiple persons.

You may be asking at this point, what is my goal?

My aim is to create a 4 part program, STEM-UNM that can help students navigate the system and not feel lost, uninformed, or unprepared in their college career.

Part one and to me the most important part is a seminar series that consists of 4 information sessions and one research session.

  1. UNM Application/Admissions and Financial Aid
  2. Libraries and Tutoring
  3. Departments and Charters Groups
  4. Orientation and Mentor sign-up
    a. Interest related tour
  5. Research Poster Session

These are split up into the following months to help incomings students prepare for the upcoming deadlines and preparing for beginning their time at UNM

  1. August/September
  2. November/December
  3. February/March
  4. April/May
  5. Spring Break

Part two is a coinciding website that will contain all the information from the presentation series along with outside links to even more resources. This website is used as a good resource to inform our future STEM students if they miss a session cannot make the sessions, or simply lost/forgot some information. Part three is an information packet to be handed out during the seminar series containing necessary documents and schedules for future reference during the students' college careers. And finally, part 4 is a student mentoring group. I expect the UNM-STEM program to end with a sign-up for incoming students to pair with current STEM students as a mentor. I would like to have a once a month mentor club with coffee or even lunch.

The information I have laid forth is an idea to not only inform STEM students to also

  1. Give them a feeling of fraternity with other STEM students
  2. To help students succeed with many resources and tools at their disposal and easily accessed (I hope)

What I have planned for the future is a bit limited as I will be leaving to graduate school, but as time permits I plan to make this program happen. My next and current directions are presented as follows.

My second goal (and purpose of this project) is to increase community outreach and STEM recruitment from our current STEM students. Working with the chartered organization SACNAS and the current SACNAS president Melanie Connick I expect this program to be in production in fall of 2012. The group wanted to work with younger minds to increase interest in STEM fields and research. My third goal for this program is to show students what they can do in STEM, there is plenty of helpful resources, and they are not alone but most important to me...