Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John Thelin


Experiential learning opportunities, such as undergraduate research, are found to be useful in promoting retention and graduation in STEM majors, and specifically for underrepresented student populations. These opportunities are being implemented throughout the United Stated as a means to improve student learning and persistence. In Kentucky’s strategic plan, experiential learning activities are seen as an avenue to help students persist in college and are key components in helping the commonwealth reach their goal of sixty-percent of adult Kentuckians earning a college credential by 2030.

Mirroring the commonwealth’s strategic plan, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) emphasized the importance for experiential learning opportunities and student success, particularly for underrepresented students. However, little is known about how these experiences are able to produce student persistence towards degree completion. McDevitt, Patel, Rose, and Ellison (2016) found that after participating in a summer research program, some students expressed a greater sense of respect as a member of the scientific community.

The present study investigates the influences of a summer research program on student science identity, sense of belonging and persistence in STEM. In-depth interviews with students, faculty, and administrators revealed how a summer research program can influence student persistence in STEM, especially for underrepresented students. Implications from this study suggest that undergraduate research programs that include faculty and peer interactions, career exploration, and the physical “doing” of research are likely to produce student persistence in STEM, particularly for underrepresented students. Limitations of the study, such as conducting the research in the midst of a global pandemic are discussed as well.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)