East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

ESU Receives INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine’s 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award

East Stroudsburg University’s (ESU) Clear Path and ESportsU Foundation programs received the 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). ESU will be featured, along with 49 other recipients, in the September 2019 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

Award winners were selected based on efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives.

“This is a great honor for our institution, our faculty and most especially for the students we serve,” said ESU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joanne Z. Bruno, J.D. “This recognition is proof positive that our academic programming continues to be committed to diversity and access for students and that the faculty leading these initiatives are forward-thinking and recognize the critical value of a STEM education in today’s evolving job market. The long-term vision of ClearPath and ESportsU Foundation will be to follow these students throughout their educational journey and early careers in order to identify best practices that will help ESU and other institutions over time.”

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected ESU’s Clear Path and ESportsU Foundation programs because they are providing pathways to success for transfer students as well as disadvantaged youth.

Through two innovative National Science Foundation grants received by ESU in September 2016 and December 2018, ESU is providing pathways to success for transfer students as well as disadvantaged youth.

In fall 2016, ESU began implementation of a National Science Foundation grant-funded, innovative, recruitment and transfer project that targets categories of students that traditionally had not been recruited and retained in baccalaureate STEM programs: women, low-income, underrepresented minorities, and first-generation students. The project’s name is Clear Path. Not only did this opportunity open up STEM fields to those who have been historically disenfranchised from STEM fields and professions, but it also demonstrated an innovative approach to recruiting students into ESU, who otherwise may not have applied and attended college at all.

The first cohort of Clear Path Scholars graduated at the university’s annual spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11. The cohort of 13 scholars was celebrated at a cording ceremony on April 28, where the students were given red and grey cords and pins to wear on commencement day. Graduates included: nine females, three from underrepresented groups, five first generation and three Pell eligible students.

Concurrently being implemented is The ESportsU Foundations Project, an exploratory project to create culturally relevant learning experiences to generate awareness, interest and motivation in STEM skill development for foster care youth. Just at its beginning, this project is geared to impact and change the course of students’ lives by channeling their passion for esports gaming into a passion for STEM education and beyond.

Clear Path

The Clear Path program has built upon traditionally strong ties that ESU has had with regional partner community colleges: Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), Luzerne Community College (LCC), and Northampton Community College (NCC), a partnership that yields many transfer students from these colleges to ESU, which is aided by specific program articulation agreements between ESU and these community colleges. However, research and experience show that the transition has not always happened seamlessly. Many transfer students in the sciences and mathematics were taking several extra semesters to graduate indicating that they often hadn’t taken the necessary prerequisites at community college to be able to graduate on time from the four-year institution. There were other obstacles in their way, as well.

To address this problem, and to increase STEM graduates at four-year institutions, particularly underrepresented minorities and women, a “clear path” between community colleges and four-year institutions must be established. ESU and its community college partners are making those targeted improvements to create that clear path for transfer students to successfully complete a STEM degree within two years after transferring to ESU from a partner community college. These improvements will allow scores of community college students going into STEM fields to be able to transfer to ESU and graduate on time with minimal debt.

Clear Path intervenes early with guidance, while the student is still at the community college level, to properly advise the student on taking necessary prerequisites before coming to ESU. In addition to offering the student a scholarship, up to $3,000 while still at the community college, and up to $10,000 while at ESU, educational support mechanisms are offered to students to ensure that they successfully complete their bachelor’s degree. ESU is providing scholarships for approximately 120 full-time STEM majors transferring from a community college, and faculty are offering academic practices that impact student success.

Jointly created by the ESU Clear path team – Instructor John Darsinos, Drs. Bonnie Green, Michelle Jones-Wilson, and Olivia Carducci – the “science of success” provides Clear Path Scholars with resources including high-impact practices: peer mentoring, advance coursework tutoring, targeted advising, success seminars, and cohort activities. Possibly the most critical component of this project is the investigators’ exploration and evaluation of the role that specific developmental mechanisms, like academic grit and academic behavior, play in assuring students’ academic success. High-impact practices, like undergraduate research and common intellectual experiences, are supported by 14 cohort activities that the investigators hypothesize will increase student retention and baccalaureate completion rates. Through formal statistical evaluation, the investigators are researching the student outcomes to further understand the interaction among the high impact practices, the cohort activities, the specified developmental mechanisms, and college level academic achievement.

As of the end May 2018, there was already demonstrated impact and outcomes of the program. For the first 18 students who came to ESU in the fall of 2017, their retention rate from year 1 to year 2 was 94.4%, with approximately 45% of the students earning a 3.5 or higher their first semester, and 60% earning a 3.5 or higher their second semester. Students reported that the scholarship money increased their likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree and that the program is most certainly impacting their ability to be successful as a student. They especially credited the success seminars on coping with stress and effective academic behavior for helping them to improve their behavior as students. Under-represented groups are benefiting from this initiative. Data show that for the first, second and third cohorts entering the program, from as early as fall 2017, 28.3% are from under-represented groups, 25% are first-generation college students and 37.6% are Pell eligible.

ESportsU Foundation

Utilizing competitive esports for at-risk children in Monroe County the ESportsU Foundation will focus on motivating and preparing at risk youth to pursue STEM careers and to create innovative instructional content.

Funding for this project is focused around esports, individual or team-played computer games that allow large audiences to watch live matches and cheer on the game’s players, similar to watching a professional sporting match. ESU faculty members Jason A. Engerman, Ph.D., primary investigator, and Richard Otto, Ph.D., co-primary investigator, both assistant professors at ESU,  see the bridge between this rapidly growing global phenomenon and the foundational principles of STEM being taught in college classrooms today.

The ESportsU Foundation is intended to promote student awareness of, interest in, and capacities to participate in emerging digital media technology fields where these STEM principles can be shared. One example of the work planned is to launch a living-learning community sleep-over camp experience in summer 2020, where young participants will engage in esports-inspired activities with industry professionals, digital media technology professors, mentors and support staff. According to Engerman and Otto, they hope to broaden interest for STEM learning among a historically underrepresented population while addressing misconceptions about STEM.

The beauty of this grant-funded initiative is that Engerman and Otto will not be working alone. Two partners working with them to implement the project will be Adelaide Grace, director of Monroe County Children and Youth Services, and Judge Jonathan Mark, court of common pleas, 43rd judicial district. In addition, the grant will be augmented by leading professionals in the field including Kimberly Voll, Ph.D., senior technical designer at Riot Games; Aroutis Foster, Ph.D., Drexel University, senior research consultant; and Kevin Clark, Ph.D., George Mason University, consulting on culturally relevant computing. Engerman and Otto will oversee the implementation and reporting of the grant and other ESU faculty members will be involved as experts to teach or advise youth while at ESU. They are: Robert Marmelstein, Ph.D., professor of computer science; Nicholas D’Angelo and Joan Kistler, both instructors of digital media technologies; and Janine Hyde-Broderick, assistant professor and director of ESU’s Upward Bound program.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

A call for nominations for this award was announced in April 2019.

For more information about the 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit insightintodiversity.com.

About INSIGHT Into Diversity

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education today and is known for its annual INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, the only award that recognizes colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across their campuses. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine presents timely, thought-provoking news and feature stories on matters of diversity and inclusion in higher education and beyond. Articles include interviews with innovators and experts, as well as explorations of best practices and profiles of exemplary programs. In our Career Center, readers will also discover career opportunities that connect job seekers with institutions and businesses that embrace a diverse and inclusive workforce. Current, archived, and digital issues of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine are available online at insightintodiversity.com.


> View all current features.