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Education

Cultural connection important for retaining minority science students

by Andrea Widener
August 29, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 34

Students from minority groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, especially those who are first-generation college students, leave science at higher rates than majority students. To help examine why, a team from California State University, Long Beach, surveyed 249 first-semester college students who had declared their interest in science, then followed up with a series of focus groups. As reported in CBE Life Sciences Education, the researchers found that many minority students are motivated to enter science because they think their work could help give back to their community (2016, DOI: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0067). That is especially true for first-generation college students, who were most likely to express these altruistic values as a reason they decided to major in science. Underrepresented minority students were also motivated by the opportunity to help improve life for their extended families. Better understanding students’ culturally connected career motives could help in recruitment and retention efforts, the authors conclude. “Finding ways to help diverse sets of students authentically identify more strongly with science is important for broadening and sustaining participation.”

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