UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Diandra Prescod began researching the effects of career development programs on student retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors nearly five years ago, she was amazed at what she found.
"My research shows that students who participate in a STEM-focused career planning course are more likely to stay in their major," Prescod said.
These results are huge, she said, because the United States is currently in a STEM crisis, with millions of STEM-related jobs remaining vacant each year.
Prescod, assistant professor of counselor education at Penn State, said about 50 percent of college freshmen enrolled in a STEM major change their course of study after the first year. Of those who do graduate with a STEM degree, only 25 percent of females and 45 percent of males actually go on to work in a STEM field.
"We are in a real STEM crisis," she said. "For many reasons, students aren't sticking with their major and are not pursuing careers that are STEM-related."
When Eric Marsh, Glenn Professor of Engineering Education in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (MNE), heard about Prescod's research, he had an idea — what if students in his department received career counseling?
"Our students need guidance and support beyond what is offered in the traditional engineering curriculum to help find a career that best matches their unique strengths and talents," Marsh said. "Diandra's work in career development interventions for STEM students is a perfect fit for our goal to better support our undergraduate students."