About 60 percent of students entering college as STEM majors don’t follow through with it.

Throughout her time at UF, Natalie DeVarona has watched students switch out of the STEM majors they came to pursue. The UF industrial and systems engineering senior said she hopes the University Innovation Fellows campaign that launched Monday will end the STEM discouragement.

“I feel the statistics,” DeVarona, 22, said. “They’re dropping like flies.”

University Innovation Fellows launched the national #uifresh campaign to attract and retain incoming freshmen by exposing them to the innovative and entrepreneurial experiences possible within the STEM majors, said Humera Fasihuddin, the co-leader of the UIF program.

UF is one of 10 schools aiming to tackle the issue of declining STEM majors. Fasihuddin said participation often drops because students lack a community and get discouraged by the tough classes.

She said each participating school’s UIF leaders will develop projects to infuse fun, energy and innovation into the fields to draw STEM-inclined students into the community.  

“We want students to say, ‘I found my tribe here, and I’m excited to pursue my STEM field,’” Fasihuddin said.

DeVarona, one of UF’s two UIF leaders, said she’s hoping to help influence students at a younger age.

“(STEM) is a huge opportunity area,” she said. “It’s so valuable. We’re here to say, ‘No, you can stick with it. You can do it.’”

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/24/2015 under the headline “New fellows program to encourage STEM majors to stay put”]

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Alyssa Fisher

Alyssa Fisher is the university editor of the Alligator and a 21-year-old journalism junior. She hoards magazines, constantly craves hummus and will always dream of becoming a ballerina.