Scientific Thinkers STEM Outreach Program: Impact on Volunteer's Skills and Diversity Awareness

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The Ohio State University

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Scientific Thinkers STEM outreach program is an Ohio State University student organization for undergraduate and graduate students. Volunteers in the program deliver hands-on science experiments to local elementary students who are underrepresented in STEM fields. Scientific Thinkers is designed to spark interest in STEM for young students and cultivate interest in science that will extend beyond the classroom. However, it was previously unclear how Scientific Thinkers serves its volunteers, such as if they are benefiting in the form of personal and professional skill development. To determine personal growth and awareness of diversity issues in STEM, the researcher surveyed and interviewed Scientific Thinkers volunteers on the following topics: leadership skills, communication skills, and diversity awareness. An online survey was administered to 18 participants, with six of these participants completing a small focus group interview. Participants were categorized as either short-term or long-term volunteers, as well as general body or leadership volunteers. Analyses indicated that long-term participants had higher mean response values for leadership, communication, and diversity survey items than did short-term participants. Leadership participants also followed this trend; however, they had a lower mean value for diversity awareness survey items compared to general body participants. Significant differences were found for leadership skills between long-term and short-term volunteers and general body and leadership volunteers. Results suggest that Scientific Thinkers should increase attention towards developing its volunteer's leadership skills, given that there is already an indication of personal skill development. To retain current volunteers, the benefits of long-term commitment to the organization should be promoted. The results from this study support as Scientific Thinkers serves elementary students, it also impacts the skill development and diversity awareness of its volunteers.



STEM Outreach, Diversity and representation, Leadership, Communication, Volunteering