On My Own: The Challenge and Promise of Building Equitable STEM Transfer Pathways is the first book of its kind to provide a detailed, on-the-ground examination of the difficult paths-curricular, interpersonal, and institutional-that students must chart through community college. The book follows 1,670 two-year college students over four years as they begin STEM programs in the Midwest and documents their educational and life experiences as they moved toward, or away, from the prospect of transfer to a four-year institution. Their stories reveal that they were on their own, left to navigate the pathways to transfer without meaningful institutional support.
The students pursued one of four pathways, or momentum trajectories: linear upward, detoured, deferred, or taking a break. The preexisting and lasting disparities in their access to education and financial resources, their experiences with teaching and advising, and the conundrum between support from and for family, among others, propelled them onto different trajectories in their quest for transfer. As this book makes painfully clear, the current state of transfer acts as a mechanism that perpetuates and worsens inequities in educational outcomes.
As Xueli Wang argues, to cultivate an equitable STEM transfer pathway, culturally relevant and responsive supports that are accessible, welcoming, and validating must be put in place at the institutional level and appeal to the talent, motivation, and unique needs of historically marginalized students. In doing so, two-year colleges will be better positioned to fulfill their promise as an equitable pathway to bachelor's degrees and beyond.
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Xueli Wang is a professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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