College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, PhD

Second Advisor

Ida Salusky, PhD

Third Advisor

Kathryn Grant, PhD


A current national priority is to increase the number of students prepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM; U.S. Department of Education, 2015). Unfortunately, Latina/os are underrepresented in STEM fields (National Science Foundation, 2010). STEM support programs may be one avenue for increasing the number of Latina/o students who enter the STEM pipeline (Afterschool Alliance, 2011), but few studies have examined the benefits of participation in a STEM program for Latina/o youth, and very little is known about the specific program activities that are related to beneficial outcomes. Social cognitive career theory offers a model of career development that emphasizes the importance of learning experiences, which in the context of STEM programs are program activities.

In the current study, one-on-one, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 39 participants who were involved in a science support program to investigate the following research questions: 1) What are the benefits of a science support program for Latina/o youth? and 2) What are the program activities that are related to these benefits? Results revealed 12 benefits of program participation: 1) access and exposure, 2) mastering science knowledge and skills, 3) academic outcomes, 4) broadened worldview, 5) confidence, 6) exploration opportunities, 7) higher order thinking, 8) professional development, 9) science interest, 10) science self-efficacy, 11) science is achievable, and 12) technical skills. Six activities were found to be related to the benefits: 1) math and science coursework, 2) oral presentations, 3) college visits and field trips, 4) presentations by professionals, 5) lab activities, and 6) mentoring. The results of this study provide important information about the activities, or learning experiences, that are related to the benefits of participating in a science support program, and they have important implications for the development and refinement of STEM programs for youth who identify with groups that are underrepresented in STEM.

SLP Collection