Retention of Underrepresented Minority Undergraduates in STEM

Applying Social Cognitive Theory and the SAFE Model


  • Alexander P. Abramenko Haverford College
  • Megan A. Nadzan Haverford College



Far fewer undergraduate students pursue and complete STEM degrees compared to humanities degrees, despite high demand for STEM professionals. Among undergraduate STEM majors, individuals from underrepresented racial minority (URM) groups are far less likely to complete their degree than their White or Asian peers, presenting a serious obstacle to diversity within the STEM workforce. Drawing from Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, researchers have identified factors that affect the retention of URM students in STEM, though there is substantial evidence that such factors are moderated by environmental influences not traditionally included in the theory. In this paper, we argue that many environmental influences can be conceptually unified under the State Authenticity as Fit to Environment (SAFE) model. Further, we review literature suggesting that the constructs of both Social Cognitive Theory and the SAFE model interact extensively when considering retention of URM undergraduates, arguing that understanding the interactions between the two models will provide a more complete picture of how retention of URM students can be improved.

Author Biographies

Alexander P. Abramenko , Haverford College

Undergraduate Student, Biology Department

Megan A. Nadzan, Haverford College

Visiting Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department