Theses and Dissertations - UTRGV

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

George Padilla

Second Advisor

Michelle Abrego

Third Advisor

Alejandro Garcia


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas are one of the fastest-growing majors in the nation, engineering, is projected to add the second largest number of new jobs from 2016 to 2026 with 140,000 new jobs (Torpey, 2018). Unfortunately, there is a disparity between enrollment and graduation rates (Chen, 2015; Lucas & Spina, 2022). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2017) despite all the research done throughout decades to improve the issue of retention in STEM areas about half of the students who pursue a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) will either leave or change majors. There are still high attrition rates and underrepresentation of Hispanics, minorities, women, and those vulnerable populations in STEM education and the workforce. The STEM labor force represents 23% of the total U.S. labor force, with higher proportions of men (Chen, 2012, 2013; Lukas & Spina, 2022; National Science Board, 2020). There are few studies done on STEM interventions for at-risk college freshmen students (Hite & Spott, 2022; Reena, 2018; Tomasko et al., 2016). This study aims to sample at-risk college freshmen students from the College of Engineering & Computer Science, to describe and explain the association between retention after the first year of at-risk college freshmen students in a STEM program and completion of a STEM intervention. The second purpose of this study is to identify find the reasons STEM students decided to stay in the program after completing a STEM intervention. The third purpose is to identify how to improve the STEM intervention. This study consists of mixed methods of data collection. The quantitative part of the research study will consist of a group of students who have completed a STEM intervention. A Chi-square test of independence (X2) will be used to find if there is an association between the completion of a STEM intervention and the retention rate of at-risk freshmen students. The qualitative part of the research study consists of the perceptions of at-risk college freshmen students who completed the STEM intervention shared in a focus group interview. These students will be asked to provide information about why they decided to continue in the STEM program after completing the STEM intervention. They will also be asked to provide information about how to improve the STEM intervention. The qualitative approach will provide an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of the STEM intervention and how to improve its construction. Additionally, the qualitative information will better inform the development of a sense of belonging to comprehend what motivates students to remain in the STEM program. The hypothesis of this study is to identify if there is an association between students who completed the STEM intervention and retention in the engineering program. This hypothesis uses an alpha of 0.05 to determine whether to reject it or fail to reject it.


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