P486: Assessment of Widener University’s “Science Initiative for the Retention of Freshmen”
Science students who are underprepared for freshman chemistry have a high rate of attrition, not only in their major but also at the university. In 2011, faculty from the Science Division at Widener University established the Science Initiative for the Retention of Freshmen (SIRF). Incoming students with poor math placement scores were assigned to this program, which created a cohort of students who were placed in the same sections of remedial math, chemistry and freshman seminar. Science Division faculty coordinated these courses to reinforce skills that would lead to student success. The goal was to retain students at the university, preferably as science majors. The program has now been run for three years, with changes made for each cohort to improve outcomes. For example, reading comprehension was identified as a barrier to student success, so the freshman English composition course was added to the program and faculty from the English Department have joined the “SIRF Board”. Outcomes of the first cohort have been assessed to evaluate retention at the university, in the college of Arts &Sciences and in the Science division. Additional assessment was performed including evaluation of placement scores (SAT, math, reading, etc.) and tracking of GPAs to determine the effectiveness of the program. This presentation will review the successes and challenges encountered in the development and refinement of the SIRF program.