LU News Archive

facebook twitter Linkedin Email

STAIRSTEP program exceeds goals

Lamar University’s STAIRSTEP program has exceeded its goals once again in its mission to retain and transition students into their advanced studies and career placement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

STAIRSTEP, STudents Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program, was created in 2009 to increase the number of students earning baccalaureate degrees in STEM at Lamar University.  The program targets talented individuals who face social and economic challenges that can make it difficult to succeed in STEM, such as low income, first generation, and other underrepresented students and provides them opportunities to participate in research, outreach and transitional activities under the direction of a faculty mentor in their discipline. As of August 2015, 104 students have participated in STAIRSTEP at Lamar University.

The benefits of the program are clear according to Peggy Doerschuk, university professor of Computer Science and Director of STAIRSTEP; it recorded the retention of STAIRSTEP students in STEM majors at 88 percent, well above its goal of 70 percent. Additionally, students in the program have consistently earned higher grades, with GPAs averaging at 3.30 compared to the non-member average of 2.71.

“Students say that participation in STAIRSTEP has significantly contributed to their growth in professional knowledge, skills, interest, abilities, and attainment of the learning objective of their disciplines,” Doerschuk said.

The success of STAIRSTEP’s graduates further supports this claim. Of the program’s graduates, 86 percent have transitioned to graduate school or are working for STEM employers such as ExxonMobil, CoreLabs, INVISTA, Schlumberger, Capital One and Shell, surpassing the program target of 80 percent. STAIRSTEP graduates find job opportunities among various top industries in the nation, including petrochemical, chemical, environmental, oil/gas offshore operations, ecommerce, and other fields.

The program’s success will also benefit the state’s future students of computational and physical sciences. Eight graduates of STAIRSTEP followed a career in STEM education and are teaching physics, math, geology and science in Texas high schools.

“We are helping to inspire the next generation to participate in STEM,” Doerschuk explained.

STAIRSTEP was supported for five years by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The program is currently supported by the Lamar University Office of Undergraduate Research and by a grant from ExxonMobil.

It received a 2013 Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its contributions toward closing the gaps in higher education in Texas.