Navigating Coastal Conservation Careers: How to increase early undergraduate students’ self-efficacy and science identity in pursuing an environmental career

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Infanti, Hannah Rose
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Three organizations located in Charleston, South Carolina, and its surrounding counties, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (SCSGC), collaboratively developed an eight-week internship program. This internship was specifically designed to provide early opportunities for underserved undergraduate students, allowing them to explore opportunities related to stewardship, outreach and education, and fisheries management. The primary objective of this thesis research is to evaluate the impact of this internship program on increasing self-efficacy, as per the Social Cognitive Theory framework, and enhancing science identity, guided by priori themes of recognition, competence, performance, and perceived barriers. This assessment of the internship program employs a mixed methods approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative analysis involves the examination of pre- and post-survey means and standard error to determine increases. Qualitatively, open-ended responses are coded according to the priori themes. The overarching goal of this thesis research is to contribute to the commitment of these organizations to promote diversity within the environmental field. By assessing the effectiveness of this internship program, this study aims to shed light on its impact and potential for increasing self-efficacy and science identity among early underserved undergraduate participants, ultimately addressing the broader challenge of underrepresentation in this field.