Statewide accolades

two individuals in mosquito netting head gear work in a field of tall grasses.Students participating in the First Year Research Exposure Program in 2016. The program received the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action’s 2018 Program Achievement Award.

First Year Research Exposure program that boosts student success in STEM receives award

A UW-La Crosse’s College of Science and Health program that exposes first-year, underrepresented students of color to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields, while improving their success in related college courses, has received a statewide award.

UW-La Crosse’s First Year Research Exposure (FYRE) program received the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action’s 2018 Program Achievement Award during the diversity awards ceremony Thursday, Oct. 25, at the state capitol.

UW-La Crosse’s First Year Research Exposure (FYRE) program received the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action’s 2018 Program Achievement Award. From left, UWL Chancellor Joe Gow, Roger Haro, director of the FYRE program and interim associate dean for the College of Science and Health, and Adin Palau, chair of the State Council on Affirmative Action.

This unique program started at UWL in 2012 with the goal of improving achievement and retention of first-year underrepresented students in the STEM fields. The program starts one week before a student’s freshman year and continues throughout the year. Students are exposed to a variety of career paths, introduced to graduate schools, and gain other first-hand experience of careers in STEM fields. They receive a comprehensive introduction to college-level math and science coursework, and are provided ongoing tutoring and academic support. Students who fully participate in all program activities receive a $1,000 scholarship during their sophomore year.

The council was impressed with the informal learning community model of the program, where students learn about current STEM research happening on campus and in the community.

The program also has a successful track record with participants completing general education course requirements in math and science at higher rates than prior to the program. The Math General Education requirement completion rates for first-year students in 2010, 2011 and 2012 ranged from 32.5 percent for African American students to 58.2 percent for Hispanic students while white students met this requirement at a rate of 77 percent. In 2017-18, FYRE students — all of whom identified as students of color — met this requirement at a rate of 84.6 percent.

Completion rates for first and second-year underrepresented students of color in Natural Lab Science General Education classes ranged from 40 percent for African American students to 73 percent for Hispanic students. The success rate for white students was 87.5 percent. In 2017-18, 92 percent of FYRE students — all of whom identified as students of color — passed BIO 105 and 90 percent of students earned a grade of C or better in CHM 103 on their first attempt. BIO 105, General Biology, and CHM 103, General Chemistry 1, are gateway courses in the STEM curriculum, which are traditionally high enrollment and foundational in nature for additional coursework or majors.

From 2012-2017, 74 students participated in the program. FYRE is a competitive program with a number of requirements. For more information visit our website.