Using survey data from NSF of recent college graduates, Dowd and her colleagues have been examining degree choice among Latino and Latina students who earn an associate’s degree on their way to a bachelor’s degree. They have found that the majority of students who transfer from a two-year college to a Hispanic-serving institution and earn a STEM degree do so in the social and behavioral sciences. Very few receive degrees in engineering, the physical sciences, or the biological, agricultural, or environment sciences.

The culture, values, and beliefs of faculty are critical factors contributing to the lack of transfer students in the natural sciences and engineering, said Dowd. Faculty members need to be partners in redesigning transfer systems, and they need robust evidence about what is effective and what is ineffective.

Transfer scholarships focused specifically on STEM fields could have a powerful effect on students and institutions, Dowd proposed. In addition, individual development accounts— savings accounts that are matched by public and private sources—could help increase the diversity of students in STEM fields.

Structural reforms of the curriculum, mentoring programs, and cultural transformation are all necessary, Dowd stated. Moreover, funds are available through recent federal initiatives to take appropriate and targeted action.


Dowd suggested the creation of what she called Evidence-Based Innovation Consortia (EBICs). Their overall intent would be to facilitate transformational educational innovations that enable all students to thrive. By working with community colleges, universities, and open education resource practitioners, EBICs could create networks that would support the adoption and adaptation of evidence-based innovations. These networks would include agencies, organizations, industry, foundations, and others interested in specific topics, such as the reinvention of the mathematics curriculum. They would support the development of effective tools for systemic interventions to achieve educational performance and equity goals, such as equity scorecards. Finally, they would conduct and support research to gather and analyze evidence of innovations’ effects.

Individual centers could focus on particular areas of innovation. For example, a center focused on the reinvention of the mathematics curriculum could coordinate the work of college faculty, researchers doing studies of curricula and pedagogy, and educators who are implementing innovative approaches.

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