STEM, first-generation, underrepresented minority, women, living-learning


Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees provide opportunities for economic mobility. Yet women, underrepresented minority (URM), and first-generation college students remain disproportionately underrepresented in STEM fields. This study examined the effectiveness of a living-learning community (LLC) for URM and first-generation first-year women interested in STEM. The authors utilized a matched sample post-hoc analysis to examine undergraduate and graduate degree attainment in science related fields for women who participated in the Women in Science Residence Program (WISERP) LLC compared to matched controls. The control group was matched on twelve characteristics that are associated with retention in STEM. First-generation college students in the LLC were significantly more likely to receive an undergraduate degree in science; URM students were more likely to receive an undergraduate degree in a science related field, nearly three times as likely to receive a master’s degree in science and more than three times as likely to receive a graduate degree in science compared to their matched controls. The results indicate that a one-year intervention can meaningfully impact persistence of at-risk populations in attaining STEM bachelor’s degrees and in enrolling in STEM graduate programs and invite further investigation into the factors contributing to the beneficial impact of LLCs.