News

Community College Review has released a special issue on transfer, “Transfer Matters"

Community College Review has released a special issue on transfer, “Transfer Matters,” to highlight new research on a key function of the community college sector during a time of enhanced focus on student outcomes. The idea for the special issue was born during a meeting of transfer scholars at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Washington, DC in 2016. “The special issue offers new research on key themes to support successful transfer: transfer access, transfer pathways, and transfer policy,” said Matt Giani, Research Scientist at the University of Texas at Austin and co-editor of the special issue.

The issue includes a forward by Debra Bragg, director of community college research initiatives at the University of Washington and convener of the 2016 meeting at the Gates Foundation in Washington, DC, who stated, “Research on community college transfer is among the most prevalent in the field, but the articles in this issue show the evolution of transfer research and offer a meaningful guide for future inquiry and practice.”

The Community College Review has released the online version of this special issue, and it will be available without a subscription through October 31, 2017 at the following URL: http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/crwa/45/4

Full press release


The role of aspirational experiences and behaviors in cultivating momentum for transfer access in STEM: Variation across gender and race.

September 28, 2017

Although upward transfer in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields represents a prominent national policy concern, community college students’ aspirations for transfer in STEM are often impeded, resulting in lower transfer rates. This study investigated four aspects of community college STEM students’ aspirational experiences and behaviors with regard to transfer: support for transfer, transfer service usage, transfer-oriented interactions, and transfer information acquisition. Particular attention was paid to how these factors may impact students’ aspirational momentum differently based on gender and race/ethnicity. Method: The study drew upon survey and administrative records from 1,245 first-time students beginning in STEM majors or courses at three large comprehensive 2-year institutions in a Midwestern state. A logistic regression model with interaction terms was employed to explore whether and how the relationship between students’ aspirational momentum toward STEM transfer and their aspirational experiences and behaviors vary across gender and race/ethnicity.

Wang, X., Lee, S.Y. and Prevost, A. (2017) Community College Review, 45 (4), 311-330


Wickersham received doctorate

Kelly Wickersham received her doctorate in May, 2017 and was awarded the ELPA Dissertation of the Year Award. Kelly’s dissertation is titled Where to go from here? Toward a model of community college students’ decision-making around postsecondary pathway selection.

Kelly will join Xueli Wang’s research team as a post-doctoral researcher in Fall 2017. Congratulations Kelly!

August 14, 2017


STEM Transfer project members presented research findings at the 59th annual Council for the Study of Community Colleges in Fort Worth, TX

April 25, 2017

STEM Transfer Project members presented the following studies during the April 6-8 meeting:

Reconciling intent with action: factors associated with the intent-action (dis)connection among two year college students in STEM



(Hsun-Yu Chan, Texas A&M University-Commerce; Xueli Wang, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

How do 2-Year college students view themselves as STEM learners?

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(Xueli Wang, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Ning Sun, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Britney Wagner, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Brett Nachman, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Where to go from here? Disentangling community college students' decision-making process around participation in alternative postsecondary pathways



(Kelly Wickersham, University of Wisconsin-Madison)


Dr. Xueli Wang and researcher published in The Journal of Higher Education

Project PI Dr. Xueli Wang and graduate researchers Ning Sun, Seo Young Lee, and Brit Wagner have their study "Does active learning contribute to transfer intent among 2-Year college students beginning in STEM?" published in The Journal of Higher Education

March 10, 2017

The study abstract is as follows: This study explores whether and how beginning 2-year college students' engagement in active learning within STEM classrooms is related to their intent to transfer to a 4-year institution. Despite the potentially important role active learning experiences play in shaping 2-year college students' intent to transfer upward, there is a dearth of research to investigate this relationship. To fill this gap, we explore the linkage between active learning and intent to transfer. In addition, we explore whether and how transfer self-efficacy may mediate this relationship. Based on survey data collected from a statewide sample of first-year 2-year college students beginning in STEM programs or courses and controlling for student entry characteristics and post-secondary factors, a path analysis of mediation reveals that active learning both is directly related to transfer intent and exerts an indirect relationship through its positive influence on transfer self-efficacy. 

Read the full paper.


Paper to be published in The Review of Higher Education

December 9, 2016

The Review of Higher Education has accepted for publication the validation study of the Expanding STEM Talent survey, conducted by Dr. Xueli Wang and Seo Young Lee. The paper is entitled "Investigating the psychometric properties of a new survey instrument measuring factors contributing to upward transfer in STEM fields." The study's abstract is as follows: In this study, we investigated the validity of a new survey instrument measuring motivational, learning, and contextual factors that could influence transfer in STEM fields from 2-year to 4- year institutions. In particular, the psychometric properties were examined for the six latent factors included in the instrument: (a) initial attitudes toward math, (b) initial attitudes toward science, (c) self-efficacy in math, (d) self-efficacy in science, (e) active learning, and (f) transfer oriented interaction. Using a combination of confirmatory factor analysis and item response theory, we found that the overall factor structure is a valid, but individual items underlying the six factors can be further improved to capture characteristics of students at all levels of a given latent trait. Our study advances a new survey instrument to illuminate potential mechanisms underlying transfer in STEM and expands the methodological repertoire for higher education research relying on surveys.

The link to the full paper will be available when published.


Dr. Xueli Wang presented at UW Colleges

November 17, 2016

Dr. Xueli Wang presented a research brief for the Expanding STEM Talent Through Upward Transfer partners at UW Colleges on October 21, 2016. In this presentation, she reviewed the project’s research design and plan for longitudinal data collection and analysis. In addition, several research findings through the base year survey, follow-up interview and first follow-up survey and interview were highlighted.


STEM Transfer team presented at ASHE

November 17, 2016

STEM Transfer Team

STEM Transfer team members presented several studies at the 41st Association for Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Annual Conference, November 10-12 in Columbus, OH. Highlights from the presented STEM Transfer research included:

Wang, X., Sun, N., Wagner, B., & Nachman, B. R. (2016, November). How do 2-year college students view themselves as STEM learners? Poster presented at the 41st Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Columbus, OH.

This study explored 2-year college students’ self-perceptions as learners in STEM courses and programs. Using grounded theory as the conceptual foundation of the study, we analyzed interview transcripts with a constructivist approach. Preliminary findings suggest several emergent themes. First, students’ self-perceptions as STEM learners may be rooted in how they view themselves as math learners, which could be subject to change depending on students’ classroom experiences. Second, students’ STEM perceptions are intertwined with perceived differences between how they view themselves and how they view their peers (e.g., gender, age, disability status, level of maturity, etc.). Third, students’ self-perceptions as STEM learners are driven by an internal process of coming to terms with the rewards and challenges of studying STEM subjects, as well as an external process of validation, or a lack thereof, through milestone accomplishments in the realm of academic achievement (e.g., getting good grades, passing exams, completing a course, etc.). 

STEM Transfer Team

Wang, X. (2016, November). Sharpening the lens: Leveraging research on undergraduate and graduate women in STEM. Interactive symposium given at the 41st meeting of the Association for Study of Higher Education, Columbus, OH. 

This interactive symposium aimed to (1) to raise awareness of the importance of considering field-specificity in research on gender and STEM; (2) to build stronger interdisciplinary theory around intersectional and nuanced research; and (3) to foster an ASHE scholarly community around gender in computer science and engineering.

Wickersham, K. (2016, November). Where to go from here? Disentangling community college students’ decision-making process around participation in aternative postsecondary pathways. Poster presented at the 41st Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Columbus, OH. 

Kelly Wickersham

This study explores how community college students, once enrolled, decide to further choose among competing postsecondary pathways. Drawing upon longitudinal survey data and rich narratives, this study aims to build a conceptual model on community college students’ decision-making related to participating in alternative educational pathways. Preliminary findings reveal several emergent themes revolving around evolving educational and career goals, finances, and figuring out program and institution fit. Implications of the study point to improving articulation and student transitions across postsecondary institutions, as well as pushing researchers and policymakers to revisit existing success and completion measures to better reflect students’ increasing mobility and varying educational goals.


Congratulations to Dr. Hsun-Yu Chan on his faculty appointment!

June 2, 2016

We are pleased and proud to announce that starting Fall 2016, Hsun-Yu Chan, our postdoctoral research associate, will start his tenure-track faculty appointment with the Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at the Texas A&M University–Commerce. Hsun-Yu will remain involved with the STEM Transfer project as an affiliate researcher. A key area of Hsun-Yu’s faculty research agenda is two-year college students' learning and academic success in STEM fields.


STEM Transfer team presents in the 100th annual meeting of American Educational Research Association

April 22, 2016

STEM Transfer team members presented two studies at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in Washington, DC April 8th to 12th. Highlights from the presented STEM Transfer research included:

Chan, H.-Y., & Wang, X. (2016, April). Reconciling intent with action: Factors associated with the intent-action (dis)connect among two-year college students in STEM. Roundtable presentation at the 2016 annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.

We examined the alignment between community college students’ aspiration toward upward transfer and their course completion patterns across the first year of their college life, and the explanatory psychosocial factors (i.e., peer interaction, peer support, and family support) of the alignment. Both survey data and transcript records were analyzed using latent profile analysis and multinomial logistic regression. The results show that students’ age moderates the relationship between engagement in peer interaction for academic purposes and the aspiration-action alignment. Engaging in peer interaction is a particularly salient predictor of completion of non-transferrable courses for students over 30 years of age, regardless of their initial aspiration for upward transfer.

Wang, X., & Lee, S. Y. (2016, April). Validating a new survey instrument measuring factors contributing to transfer in STEM. Paper presented at the 2016 annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.


STEM Transfer Team presents in the 58th annual meeting of Council for the Study of Community Colleges

April 22, 2016

STEM Transfer team members presented several studies at the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) conference in Plano, TX March 31st-April 2nd. Highlights from the presented STEM Transfer research included:

Wang, X. (2016, April). Measuring Sources and Influences of Social Capital Among Community College Students: Does Age Matter? Paper presented at the 58th annual conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Plano, TX.

We examined the different types of social capital for community college students of varying ages, focusing on how engaging in building social capital is related to persistence. Exploratory factor analysis revealed that students at different ages perceive the role of institutional agents in distinctive ways. We further found age-specific linkages between students’ engagement in social capital and retention, implying that building certain types of social capital may be particularly beneficial depending on students’ age.

Wang, X., Chan, H.-Y., Soffa, S. J., & Nachman, B. (2016, April). A nuanced look at women in STEM fields at community colleges: Factors that shape female students’ transfer intent.< Paper presented at the 58th annual conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Plano, TX.

In this study, we found that women’s math and science self-efficacy, and their transfer capital, are related to their intent to transfer to a 4-year institution. Further, this relationship is moderated by four identity backgrounds that are particularly relevant for women: racial/ethnic minority status, marital status, being a single parent, and being a first-generation student. For example: Black women need a higher level of math self-efficacy and transfer capital to have an intent to transfer to STEM fields than their White peers. Married women with a higher level of science self-efficacy are more likely to have an intent to transfer to non-STEM fields. These results demonstrate the importance of students’ identity in the process of upward transfer.

Wang, X., Lee, Y., & Wickersham, K. (2016, April). Predicting transfer into STEM fields of study using longitudinal data: The case of Ohio. Paper presented at the 58th annual conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Plano, TX.

This study explored course-taking patterns that predict transfer into STEM fields of study and the timing of transfer. Building upon the concept of STEM momentum and employing a combination of longitudinal multidimensional k-means cluster analysis and multinomial logistic regression, findings reveal six clusters of course-taking patterns. STEM momentum through course-taking, in particular advanced STEM courses, reaps the most benefit for students. Furthermore, momentum gained through general or advanced STEM course-taking, while exerting positive effects on transfer regardless of timing, seems to be optimal for middle transfer as compared with early or late transfer.

Chan, H.-Y., & Wang, X. (2016, April). Exploring factors that cultivate momentum among first-year community college students beginning in STEM. Paper presented at the 58th annual conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Plano, TX.

In our analysis of survey data, in conjunction with transcript and administrative data, we identified major patterns of course-completion among first-time community college students in STEM fields across the first two semesters of their college career. While students tend to exhibit the same course taking pattern across semesters, there is some variability. For example, students in the “exploring” group are much more likely to drop out of college as compared to the other groups. Moreover, students’ first-term GPA, financial support, and engagement in active learning are protective factors against dropping out. More studies are needed to understand what factors contribute to students choosing a vocational track.

Wang, X., Sun, N., Lee, S. Y., & Wagner, B. (2016, April). Does active learning contribute to transfer intent among community college students beginning in STEM? Paper presented at the 58th annual conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Plano, TX.

In this paper we explored the linkage between active learning—pedagogical practices that engage students intellectually and encourage thinking, problem-solving, questioning, or analyzing information—and intent to transfer. After matching students’ survey to transcript data, we proposed a path model and found that active learning has a direct, positive effect on intent to transfer to STEM-related fields. Active learning also had an indirect effect on intent to transfer through promoting transfer self-efficacy - students’ confidence in their ability to deal with the transfer process.

Dr. Xueli Wang participates in national meeting to examine "hard-to-measure" competencies

December 16, 2015

STEM Transfer team members presented several studies at the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference in Denver, CO November 5-7, 2015. Highlights from the presented STEM Transfer research included:

Wang, X. (2015, November). Exploring sources and influences of social capital on community college students' first-year outcomes: Does age make a difference?  Paper presented at the 40th annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Denver, CO.

In this study we investigated the types of social capital students in community colleges have, and whether older (24 years of age or above) and younger (18-23 years of age) students differ. Preliminary findings suggest that younger students are significantly more involved with networks and relationships conducive to building social capital. Furthermore, we found that younger students are more likely to enroll in their second year when they interact with faculty and peers for academic matters, perceive that people around them are supportive of their educational pursuits, and spend more effort preparing for transfer to a four-year institution.

Wang, X., Soffa, S. J., Chan, H.-Y., & Nachman, B. (2015, November).  A nuanced look at women in STEM fields at community colleges: How do women’s multiple identities shape their transfer intent? Paper presented at the 40th annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Denver, CO.

Based on data from our Year 1 survey, we found that women’s multiple identities, coupled with other factors, such as self-efficacy in math and science, are related to their intent to transfer to a 4-year institution. For example: female students who are also single parents need a high level of transfer capital to have an intention to transfer to STEM fields. Black female students with a high level of math self-efficacy indicate that they intend to transfer to STEM fields, as opposed to non-STEM fields, in the future. For White female students, however, this social cognitive factor is not particularly indicative of their aspirations in STEM fields.

Wang, X., Sun, N., Lee, S., and Wagner, B. (2015, November). Does active learning contribute to transfer intent among students beginning in STEM fields at community colleges? Paper presented at roundtable discussion at the 40th annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Denver, CO.

In this study, we explore the potential linkage between active learning—pedagogical practices that engage students intellectually and encourage thinking, problem-solving, questioning, or analyzing information— and intent to transfer. Analyzing a combination of students’ survey and transcript data, we found that active learning has a direct, positive effect on intent to transfer to STEM-related fields, as opposed to no transfer intent. Active learning also demonstrated an indirect effect on intent to transfer through boosting transfer self-efficacy (i.e., students’ perceived competence of their ability to handle the transfer process), a motivational belief that was found to cultivate intent to transfer.


Dr. Xueli Wang presented at the 2015 Council for the Study of Community Colleges meeting, which took place April 9-11, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Her paper “STEM pathways from community college to four-year institutions: Toward a conceptual model of STEM Transfer” depicts the project’s conceptual framework and discusses methodological considerations for using this framework.

September 3, 2015


The STEM Transfer project welcomes three additional research team members – Dr. Hsun-Yu Chan joins the project as a post-doctoral research associate and Dr. Amy Prevost joins as a researcher. Brett Nachman joins as a graduate student researcher.

September 3, 2015


The baseline survey of our STEM Transfer study has now closed. We surveyed nearly 3,000 new students starting in Fall 2014 at our partner two-year institutions. Over half of the students completed our survey questionnaire, for an overall response rate of 56.6%.

February 9, 2015


The STEM transfer team presented our work at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research Poster Fair at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on February 27th. See our poster

March 9, 2015