The primary objective of the COSMOS program is to recruit, retain and engage academically talented liberal arts students in the STEM disciplines.
The United States faces a national need for a significant increase of the number of American scientists in the workforce. This NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) project at Occidental College will address this need and contribute to the national effort to produce more STEM graduates by providing financial, academic, and personal support to academically-talented and financially needy students majoring in the STEM fields of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Geology, Mathematics and Physics. The COSMOS project (Creating Opportunities in Science and Mathematics for Occidental Students) will support three annual cohorts of eight sophomore students who are academically talented but in financial need with scholarship awards of up to $8,000 each per year. The primary focal points of COSMOS are recruitment, retention and leadership development of students who major and graduate in the aforementioned STEM disciplines. The COSMOS program will increase opportunities for these students to enter the STEM workforce as leaders by enhancing the academic, advising and research infrastructures to mentor students at the institution from their first year as undergraduates through graduation. COSMOS leverages federal funds to support students and broaden participation in high-impact practices at Occidental such as summer undergraduate research opportunities, a first-year seminar course in STEM content, supplemental instruction, community outreach and active mentoring by specially selected and trained faculty and student peers.
The COSMOS initiatives will work in concert with existing and strengthened support services at Occidental. The investigators will research and assess the effectiveness of the various components of the project, considered individually and working in combination with each other. Their findings will add to the overall knowledge base of STEM education and will help create a national model leading to productive student intervention strategies, which can be shared with and replicated at other institutions. The investigations will provide new insights related to understanding and improving successes of underrepresented and/or low income students, thereby broadening participation by expanding diversity in STEM fields, especially at liberal arts colleges. COSMOS has a robust evaluation plan with formative and summative components, organized around a clear logic model and implemented by an independent evaluator. There are multiple articulated metrics, outcomes and quantifiable data that will be used to measure overall success of COSMOS in increasing the number and diversity of academically talented and financially disadvantage majors and graduates in STEM fields at Occidental College.