UW-Madison’s Xueli Wang recently discussed her new book, which explores the experiences of STEM transfer students at community colleges, with Inside Higher Ed.
Wang is a professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
Her book, “On My Own: The Challenge and Promise of Building Equitable STEM Transfer Pathways,” follows 1,670 community college students over four years as they transfer to four-year institutions.
While the title suggests students succeed because of their own attitudes and actions, Wang explains to Inside Higher Ed that the meaning of “On My Own” is much more nuanced and multifaceted. Though most students featured in the book were “remarkably motivated and resilient,” Wang discovered that many received limited institutional support and faced numerous structural challenges.
Wang notes that some of the primary obstacles faced by STEM students include ambiguous relationships between courses and STEM majors, lack of clear course pathways that fit students scheduling needs, and the absence of financial support for transfer students. Wang tells Inside Higher Ed that many transfer students from low-income backgrounds are ultimately forced to make a difficult decision between transferring and work.
In her interview with Inside Higher Ed, Wang calls on “transfer-receiving institutions to be an equal, active, and proactive partner in supporting transfer students.” She recommends that transfer-sending and -receiving institutions collaboratively articulate institution- and program-specific agreements.
According to Wang, a “good” transfer opportunity would make transfer a part of the financial aid system, without full-time enrollment strings to better serve students from diverse backgrounds. Students would also have access to transferable STEM courses with flexible scheduling, as well as equitable and easy access to well-informed guidance.
To learn much more about this important, nuanced topic, check out the Inside Higher Ed article to learn more about Wang’s work and her new book.