Increasing Student Retention and Recruitment through Alumni Programs, Speed Networking, and Industry Engagement

This project will drive community college student retention and recruitment in biotechnology fields by fostering mutually beneficial relationships between students, alumni, industry, and the community. The need for biotechnicians is increasing nationwide, requiring an ever-expanding pool of skilled biotechnicians. This project will focus on activities to develop and test methodologies to directly engage graduates of community college biotechnology programs in alumni networks and activities. These activities will expand awareness of biotechnology career pathways and build direct industry connections with community college biotechnology programs. These connections will be used to recruit and retain the next generation of skilled technicians. Methodologies will be tested and evaluated across three colleges from different regions of the United States: Austin Community College (TX), City College of San Francisco (CA) and Johnston Community College (NC). Over the 3 years of this project, the activities will include building connections between over 90 students and 45 industry professionals through alumni success stories and speed networking, to increase students’ sense of belonging, science identity, and career awareness. The project will document the career paths of the alumni to create career pathways for current students. These direct connections with industry will foster recruitment, retention, and placement of community college students in the biotechnology field. The methodologies and tools developed will be disseminated nationally to community college biotechnology programs and will likely be applicable to other disciplines.

The goal of this project is to produce results-oriented methodologies and tools for recruitment and retention that focus on alumni engagement. This will be done through piloting speed networking events, creating “Scientist Spotlights'' and publishing “Alumni Success Stories” across the three colleges with different demographic, socio-economic and industry landscapes. To accomplish this, the project will 1) establish an alumni network to document alumni career pathways for the purpose of educating current and future students, and 2) develop employee and alumni outreach tools to increase alumni and industry engagement creating direct industry interactions between existing and potential community college students. Feedback from faculty and staff from all three colleges will be used to develop and embed these methodologies and tools into curricula. Community college biotechnology, biology, and chemistry students, as well as high school students, will be recruited to participate in the speed networking events to directly interact with alumni industry professionals. These events will provide current and future students relevant and relatable information that will encourage them to join and/or complete biotechnology programs. This will simultaneously provide alumni opportunities to re-engage with their program and give back to their community, creating a sustainable feedback loop for industry engagement with community college biotechnology programs.

Project PI: 
Poornima Rao
Host Organization: Austin Community College
Collaborating organizations: 
Other Collaborators: 
Linnea Fletcher, PhD, CoPI, Austin Community College Karen Leung, PhD, CoPI, City College of San Francisco Golnar Afshar, PhD, CoPI, City College of San Francisco Melissa Robbins, CoPI, Johnston Community College
Grant number: DUE 2202011
Project Contact Info: 
Austin TX