Ohio’s STEM Ability Alliance

- - College and Careers for Ohioans with Disabilities

What is Ohio’s STEM Ability Alliance?

Ohio’s STEM Ability Alliance (OSAA) is a coalition of Ohio stakeholders established to increase the number of students with disabilities that earn degrees and enter employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Led by Wright State University and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, OSAA is dedicated to the task of maintaining and building US global competitiveness by increasing the participation of underrepresented individuals in critical science and engineering professions.

What Does Wright State’s OSAA Program Do?

The OSAA program at Wright State includes a wide range of tailored activities, academic supports and enrichment opportunities for STEM students with disabilities during the last two years of high school and while enrolled in STEM studies at the university at the undergraduate and graduate levels. OSAA is supported by its secondary school partners through recruiting assistance and by its STEM government and industry partners through student placements in research experiences and internships.

OSAA programming at the high school level is aimed at facilitating the recruitment and transition of students with disabilities to college STEM degree programs. One of our key recruiting activities is Diverse-Ability U., an annual 5-day residential campus experience for 11th and 12th grade students with disabilities. Learn more about our high school programming here.

The primary focus of OSAA interventions and research is on university students with disabilities who are pursuing degrees under STEM majors. New freshmen, transfer students and existing upperclassmen are recruited through advertising and referrals to become OSAA Scholars. Those who elect to join this group are given access to a variety of services, supports, incentives and academic opportunities aimed at assuring their retention in college and progression in the STEM major of their choice, optimizing the quality of the degrees that they earn, and maximizing their qualifications for entry to the STEM workforce or graduate school programs. Among the benefits available to OSAA Scholars at Wright State are access to tutoring in prerequisite and STEM courses, a first-year experience learning community, near-peer and professional mentoring, regular Scholars seminar meetings focused on career success following graduation, STEM participation incentives for travel, software and tools (Scholars’ Dollars), scholarships, internships, and a unique individualized advising resource known as the Ability Advisor.

Click on the pictures below for brief overviews of the key elements of the Wright State OSAA Scholars program. A detailed description of the full intervention program can be found here.

OSAA Goals and Results Wright State University

OSAA is engaged in its fifth year of integrated programming aimed at meeting the overarching objective of significantly growing the number of students with disabilities who enroll in, and complete degrees in STEM fields and enter graduate programs or the STEM workforce.

At Wright State University, our approach to this broad objective centers on a combined program of implementation and applied research to continuously test and document our practices and build evidence-based model of effective intervention that can be disseminated for use in a variety of institutional contexts. We have used the “barrier model” of factors influencing STEM success to guide the selection practices for broadening participation in STEM, adapt those practices to maximize their effectiveness with college SwD, and develop new techniques where existing methods are insufficient. We use assessments of the effectiveness of individual program elements and objective academic outcome and impact measures to guide the continued development and refinement of these interventions.

This effort has yielded a robust and well-documented program of interventions as well as a significant and growing body of objective evidence which demonstrates its effectiveness and impact on OSAA goals. These findings include significant increases in the number of students with disabilities who are electing STEM majors at Wright State, university and STEM major retention rates that meet and exceed national rates for students without disabilities, and initial graduation data that exceed program benchmarks.

For more detailed information on OSAA outcomes at Wright State see OSAA Goals and Outcomes.

OSAA Program Evaluation

In addition to detailed internal tracking of objective data on student performance and goal achievement, OSAA conducts a formal program of formative and summative assessment through an external evaluation program. The OSAA logic model underlying this evaluation program connects program activities to immediate outcomes and to long term effects directly associated with impact on program goals. Evaluation questions derived from the model are addressed with tailored survey instruments and qualitative methods and the resulting data are used to refine OSAA interventions and to develop a base of knowledge on the internal student factors that mediate positive STEM participation outcomes.

For more detailed information on Wright State’s OSAA evaluation program see OSAA Logic Model and Description of Metrics.

Find out more about our partners at The Ohio State University.