Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

LaDue, Nicole D.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment


In 2019, a Midwestern state university was awarded a $1 million NSF S-STEM grant to support scholarships for academically gifted, Pell Grant-eligible undergraduates enrolled in one of six designated STEM majors. Educational research was also funded by this grant, with the goal of identifying and contextualizing supports and challenges that impact persistence in STEM within the setting of a near-peer-mentored social support group during the fall of 2019. The purpose of this group was to provide social support and foster a sense of belonging for the twelve scholars. Such support is important for guiding students towards personal development and degree completion. This is of great significance given that persistence in STEM is widely identified as low and therefore problematic for the growing demand for new scientists. This complex and systemic issue warrants a deeper understanding to contextualize substantial statistical data. In this qualitative thesis, I have taken a case-study methodological approach to share the lived experiences of twelve STEM undergraduates during the fall 2019 semester as they participated in a peer group led by myself. Results from this study highlight the importance of social/emotional support as well as specific struggles faced by STEM students. Among the most prominent themes was the significance of normalizing these struggles, thereby helping the students feel less alone and a stronger sense of their identities in science.


115 pages




Northern Illinois University

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