Sierra Williams

Major and Classification

 Industrial and Systems Engineering

Faculty Mentor

John Carlsson, PhD., Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering


Viterbi: Industrial & Systems Engineering

Research Gateway Project

“First-Generation, Low Income, Minority Student Retention in STEM Fields”

Project Abstract

After many attempts at increasing minority student representation in STEM, the numbers of Hispanic and African American students pursuing STEM degrees are stagnant. The issue is worse for low-income, first-generation college students. The US labor force is highly dependent upon foreign scientists and engineers to help fulfill our STEM jobs. In order to discover the reason why this group of students are dropping out of STEM majors, I interviewed 11 students who were currently or have previously majored in STEM at some point in their college careers. I also interviewed 5 organizations whose goal was assisting students in getting to college or are specifically designed to introduce students to different scientific concepts. While analyzing the interviews, lack of adequate preparation, motivation, and issues with the curriculum of the STEM majors at USC were the primary reasons that students dropped out of STEM. In conclusion, personalized advising, early research experience, and remedial courses are the route to take in order to better suit the needs of our students. It is understood that remedial courses may push back students’ graduation dates but since it is a national problem, the US government should incentivize students and support them in pursuit of their degree.