The National Science Foundation HBCU-UP III grant's theme is Comprehensive Approach for Retention and Persistence in STEM. The goals of this program include providing a strong foundation for incoming UVI STEM students and increasing the retention, persistence, and graduation rates for STEM majors. Several new curriculum developments have been proposed and implemented as a comprehensive approach to these goals.
Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) will be implemented by creating special sections of the University's two-semester sequence of developmental mathematics courses. These sections are specifically designed for students in STEM majors. Students in these courses will spend three 50-minute classes per week with an instructor and will use the fourth class for PLTL workshops. A by-product of this activity will be the forming of a learning community of STEM majors who will support each other throughout their STEM undergraduate program.
Success in STEM: A Freshman Development Seminar (FDS) will incorporate elements of the Freshman Development Seminar that is required of all freshmen but will be focused especially for STEM majors. The course will be taught by STEM faculty. Additionally, it will be designed to integrate with the other courses that the students take such that specific study skills are discussed at the time they are most relevant and that students can use exercises from other classes to practice various learning techniques, like critical thinking, metacognition, and time management. It is expected that after completion of this course, students will be more knowledgeable about and better adjusted to the rigors of being a STEM major.
Computational Principles seeks to prepare students earlier in their college careers for the increased use of computational activities in STEM courses. This course is offered as part of Math Behind the Science Summer Bridge Program, which included students from the high schools, from the pool of students who have been accepted to UVI and have declared a STEM major or are undecided, and from students in the UVI developmental mathematics program. Students participating in the Computing Principles course implemented in the summer bridge program will take Introductory Programming earlier in their college careers, and will be more successful in that course.
Previous HBCU-UP grant awards provided the foundation for the development of a concentration in Computational Science for students seeking a BS degree in Biology, Mathematics, or Computer Science, as well as the addition of a course in Bioinformatics.
The National Institute of Health MARC grant also supports curriculum development at the University of the Virgin Islands. To help achieve the grant's overall goal, a number of new courses were developed and science curriculum support to enhance the University as a whole was provided. A specific measurable objective of the MARC grant is to provide students with a rigorous curriculum that develops both verbal and quantitative skills. Some of the objectives and achievements are summarized below.
Curriculum development sponsored by the National Institute of Health MBRS-RISE program includes a new course offering in Scientific Critical Thinking. In the past, RISE students have scored poorly on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which suggest that UVI students need to improve their critical thinking skills.
Scientific Critical Thinking will be offered as a selective topic for BIO 465 or 466. It is a one credit course taught by Dr. Teresa Turner and is required for RISE students as part of their curriculum. The emphasis will be on evaluating evidence, applying judgment criteria, developing alternative hypotheses, interpreting and analyzing quantitative information, statistical and probabilistic reasoning, identifying unstated assumptions, explaining how an argument depends on assumptions, supporting ideas with relevant examples, and transferring knowledge from one situation to another.