Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Nina Goodey

Committee Member

Lynn Schneemeyer

Committee Member

Josh Galster


First-generation students and other underrepresented groups face particular challenges at college, which can affect whether they thrive in their courses and remain on track to graduate. For students interested in majoring in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and math), science literacy skills are necessary for success in their coursework and future careers. We investigated the impact of demographic factors on science literacy skills, retention, and grade point average (GPA). The STEM Pioneers program at Montclair State University (MSU; Montclair, New Jersey, USA) was designed to support first-generation students with an interest in STEM who have not yet declared a major. We found that first-generation, African American/Hispanic, and female students had lower science literacy skills than their peers when they entered college, and first-generation students had lower retention rates. The science literacy scores of STEM Pioneers students who started with the lowest scores improved significantly, while no significant improvements were observed for the students overall. Prior to COVID-19, students in the STEM Pioneers program had slightly higher retention rates than students in the control group. These findings can be used to make improvements to the program and inform other efforts to support underrepresented students with an interest in STEM.

File Format


Available for download on Wednesday, January 31, 2024