The Scholars Academy (SA) is an academically competitive scholarship and mentoring program housed in the University of Houston-Downtown College of Sciences & Technology supporting exceptional minority and female, first time in college (FTIC), first generation, and transfer students pursuing baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By providing tuition support scholarships and year-round mentoring with both peer mentors and STEM PhD faculty mentors, a scholar’s community forms the foundation for success in this program. The Scholar Academy's inception was the result of an initial Army Research Office grant in 1999 authored by two UHD STEM professors.
The Scholars Academy mission ten years ago focused primarily upon increasing underrepresented students in the undergraduate STEM university experience. Now, the Academy also focuses upon increasing on-time graduation rates and greater retention rates and how many enter graduate/professional programs, after having completed the baccalaureate STEM major at UHD.
Over the past 15 years the UHD Scholars Academy has demonstrated that an intentional support system can work to retain and graduate minority and women STEM majors. Evidence of the programs benchmarks of excellence can be seen in the following data: 1) SA has graduated over 700 STEM alumni over the last 15 years; 2) Established a current 51% acceptance rate of its membership into medical schools; 3) Supported a current rate (and rising trend) of acceptance into graduate and professional schools of 41% (44% for First Time in College –FTIC); 4) Supported entry of STEM graduates into the STEM workforce at a rate of 52% in 2015 up from 46% in 2009; and 5) Evidences a rate of 93% of all SA STEM graduates remaining in STEM pipeline either through graduate/professional programs and/or entrance into the STEM workforce post-baccalaureate. Additionally, current retention rates remain at 69%, however, FTIC six-year graduation rates of 49% reported in 2009 have risen to 57% as of the fall 2014. This FTIC graduation rate equals the State of Texas average graduation rate (57.4%) as reported by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (June 2011; http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/