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CSUSM and Palomar's NSF-Funded STEP* Project:

Increasing STEM Talent Through Regional Partnerships, Recruiting, and Retention

California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) and Palomar Community College (Palomar) are increasing the number of STEM graduates through recruiting and retention activities coordinated across both institutions. A marketing study was conducted to determine how prospective students’ perceived STEM programs and what program elements were highly attractive to prospective students. These findings have been incorporated into outreach programs and promotional materials. To increase retention in STEM courses, the project has initiated an Active-Learning Pedagogy Support (ALPS) program that provides faculty professional development and resources to implement course-specific active-learning based curricula. In addition, a STEM center with drop-in science tutoring will open in spring 2012.


CSUSM and Palomar are <2 miles apart in north San Diego County. Palomar and CSUSM serve a region with a high concentration of technology and biotech firms. Projections for regional and state growth show a strong need for workers with degrees in all STEM disciplines. 

CSUSM and Palomar are culturally and ethnically diverse and representative of their surrounding region. Both CSUSM and Palomar are designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). The region also has a significant military presence including a number of large military bases. 

CSUSM – Palomar partnership

CSUSM and Palomar have a strong partnership based on physical proximity, overlapping educational missions, and participation in local higher ed organizations. STEM-specific interactions include formal elements such as an NIH Bridges grant, DoE HSI-STEM grant, the current NSF-STEP grant, and transfer agreements.


  • Recruiting efforts based on current perception of CSUSM STEM program by current and potential students (as determined through focus groups, surveys).
  • Focused recruiting efforts conducted via partnerships between CSUSM, Palomar College, the active duty/veteran military community, and select local high schools
  • Tailoring and enhancing current general recruiting efforts to include a focus on STEM recruiting with specific messages: “A multi-disciplinary approach rich with UG research opportunities will let you be anything - not just one thing.”“You have to do science as well as study it. Getting your hands dirty in science leads to more career opportunities.”
  • Implementing STEM-specific articulation agreements for transfers studentsVeterans initiative – Course offerings at community college extension site at USMC Camp Pendleton Base
  • Contacting admitted CSUSM STEM students and providing information on CSUSM
  • Student “STEM Ambassadors” from CSUSM to Palomar STEM clubs and HS STEM clubs


  • STEM Centers
  • Drop-in tutoring for gateway science courses (STEM Center) under development on both campuses – STEM Center Ribbon cuttings Spring 2012
  • Active Learning Support Program for Gateway Courses
  • Cross campus collaborative – Instructors in common gateway courses from both CSUSM and Palomar explore national “best practices” curriculum
  • Learning Assistants (UC Boulder Model) support course modifications the following semester9 chemistry faculty from CSUSM and Palomar currently working on modifications to Introductory Chemistry Sequence

*STEP is NSF's STEM Talent Expansion Program. This project is supported by NSF Grant  DUE-1068477