Abstract #M333

# M333
Virginia Tech STEM Scholars program: Freshman academic performance influences subsequent academic success.
R. R. Cockrum*1, K. F. Knowlton1, M. D. Denbow1, 1Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.

There is mounting pressure to develop a pipeline of talented animal biology graduates to address mounting societal and agricultural problems in food, energy and water. To better prepare students to enter into agricultural careers, researchers at Virginia Tech have developed the STEM Scholars program. The objectives of this study were to (1) determine effect of cohort on academic performance and (2) identify early academic parameters that influence overall academic success. Economically challenged but academically talented students (n = 21) were recruited their freshman year into the Virginia Tech STEM Scholars program from the dairy and animal sciences departments over 3 cohorts (C1, n = 7; C2, n = 8; C3, n = 6). Students remained in the program until graduation. The effects of cohort were tested using an ANOVA in SAS with the fixed effects of primary major and sex. A Tukey adjusted post-test analysis was used to adjust for multiple comparisons. Mean comparisons and SE are reported using least squares means. A Pearson correlation and multiple linear regression analyses in SAS were used to determine relationships among academic records across semesters. These included: primary major, gender, number of majors, number of minors, transfer credits, term GPA, academic class, and grades in STEM Scholar professional development courses. The professional development courses included “Journal Club in STEM,” “Career Success in STEM,” and “Effective Communication and Career Development.” Class scores were decreased for C2 (95.88 ± 0.86) compared with C3 (99.92 ± 0.94). There was a strong correlation (r ≥0.58) among semesters 1 through 3 with academic performance. Finally, academic performance in the second semester and performance in “Effective Communication and Career development” influenced 3rd semester academic performance. Students that were academically successful their first semester were more likely to be successful their sophomore year. Overall, we suggest that providing academic and career support within the first year of college will increase the likelihood that students will remain successful in their undergraduate program.

Key Words: academic, STEM, success