Retention Factors for Underrepresented University Students in the Natural Resource and Related Sciences at Texas A&M
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Hispanics, Blacks, and American Indians are historically underrepresented minorities in the sciences and even more so in the natural resource and related science (NRRS) majors. An effort to better understand retention and recruitment factors at Texas A&M University for underrepresented minorities was evaluated. In 2011, using Dillman’s methodology, a comparative study comprised of 279 online survey questions with Likert scale responses was designed and then administered to 4,779 pre-professional minority and majority undergraduate and graduate students within the five NRRS colleges (Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Geosciences, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences). The study objectives first identified relevant individual and institutional retention factors, and secondly, determine significant associations for the demographic variables of race/ethnicity, gender, income, classification, and transfer status using non-parametric Chi-square tests. Results found seven factors significantly contribute to retention among NRRS disciplines, two of which were individual retention factors: (1) self-reliance (self-efficacy) and (2) the influence/support from a university advisor. The remaining five were institutional factors: (1) study skills, (2) participation in faculty-led research, (3) general academic advising, (4) participation in organizations that foster an interest in the outdoors, and (5) secondary education experiences. “Perseverance” (self-efficacy) was the most influential retention factor (90% of responses) for all survey respondents, regardless of demographics at TAMU. My results indicated that among underrepresented minority populations, American Indians have a strong self-reliance rating (100%) but the rating for advising, socialization and research opportunities with faculty were low (0%). Conversely, Mexican (native) (40%) and Asian/Pacific Islander engagement in social and academic exchanges with faculty was higher (39%) compared to other respondents’ (~22%). General academic advising had high usage Among Black (44%) and Mexican (native) (46%) respondents. The Mexican (native) reported a higher reliance on individual study skills (94%) when compared to Blacks (59%). In secondary education experiences, Other/International (66%) and Whites (64%) indicated middle school was important in skill development in contrast to Blacks (52%) and Hispanics (46%) whose career interests were not stimulated by earlier academic experiences. Income, although important, was not a significant (P>0.05) predictor compared to ethnicity and race. Texas A&M in its commitment to retain NRRS students should acknowledge that higher self-efficacy levels among its students along with student service support in the forms of effective general academic advising, systemic socialization, and research opportunities with departmental faculty would be effective in the pre-professional success of its future NRRS professionals. Finally, diversity and retention in the NRRS shows signs of beginning at the K-12 level, therefore, Texas A&M should consider forging interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships in the public sector as well as in higher education to develop necessary academic skills for retaining underrepresented minorities in the NRRS.
Wildlife and Fisheries
Moreno, Marisela (2017). Retention Factors for Underrepresented University Students in the Natural Resource and Related Sciences at Texas A&M. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from