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Physics Instructor Recognized Nationally for Student Retention Plan

Rebecca Stamilio-Ehret, physics and industrial/technical trades instructor at Edgecombe Community College, has received national recognition for her plan designed to reduce the dropout rate for female students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Her plan, called the Women in STEM Retention Plan, was named one of the top three training plans developed as part of the 2013 National Science Foundation-funded WomenTech Educators Training.

Stamilio-Ehret’s plan combines best practices with the latest educational research. For example, she explains, “Stereotypically, men are interested in nuts and bolts and impressed by technology because it’s ‘cool.’ Women, on the other hand, tend to want to help people.

“To reach a larger pool of female students, we can’t just wow them with technology, we have to explain how they will use it and benefit by it.”

In her own classes at Edgecombe, she has found that retention and student success begin on the first day of class. “If we complete a simple activity that everyone can do correctly, the students’ confidence in their ability to master the course work increases. It changes their mindset, especially for women, from day one.”

The national WomenTech Educators Training competition included recruitment and retention plans developed by faculty from four-year colleges and universities as well as community colleges.

Stamilio-Ehret also serves as the college’s pre-engineering degree coordinator and directs Edgecombe’s weeklong STEM Camp for middle school students held in the summer.

An ECC faculty member since 2007, she holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Appalachian State University.