It is imperative that STEM students start planning and preparing their educational plan as early as possible, taking into account several other variables, such as financial aid, family commitments and obligations, work, time management and study skills for the highly rigorous STEM curriculum they have choose to pursue. A calculated and coordinated curriculum from the earliest stages in their college career is imperative, as it may greatly impact and lengthen their path to degree attainment. However, like most other students, STEM students often are not even yet aware of where they to transfer, what exact major they want to pursue, or what career options they have. Yet unfortunately for a STEM student, the clock is ticking much faster, as they must work through a curriculum that encompasses several simultaneous sequence courses where advancement is contingent upon successful prerequisite completion. Furthermore, many 4-yearinstitutions do not even recommend STEM students to complete an A.S. or A.A., which usually provides a guide to students pursuing a 4-year degree after transferring.
To address these issues, East Los Angeles College launched a STEM Mentor Program, which pairs STEM students one-on-one with an assigned STEM mentor. The goals of the STEM mentor program are to train STEM faculty, providing detailed and comprehensive professional development on the higher education transfer pipeline, and resources addressing the key factors affecting student achievement specifically in STEM fields, so that in turn, the faculty can mentor students accordingly. It is the ultimate goal that students will have a much clearer vision and guidance on how to reach their academic and career goals, taking into account the very specific needs of STEM students. A key characteristic of the mentors is that they are STEM faculty; having experienced similar rigorous academic pathways as the one the students they are mentoring. Therefore, STEM faculty understand first-hand the difficulty of taking a series of specific STEM courses at a given time, which a college academic counselor often perceive as a normal academic load – a full-time student taking 3 courses that are 15 credit units in total. An example of such a set of courses would be: Mathematics: Calculus III, Chemistry: Organic Chemistry, Physics: Electromagnetism.