Oluwatamilore “Tamilore” Ajeigbe: harnessing data science to look at impact of race on STEM retention rates

Sept. 30, 2022

Oluwatamilore “Tamilore” Ajeigbe, 22, Class of 2022


Ajeigbe earned a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and the undergraduate certificate from the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning (CSML).

Undergraduate Work:

Ajeigbe first came to Princeton initially as a neuroscience pre-med student and felt at a disadvantage because of the lack of instructional guidance and the "assumption that you needed to know a lot of the material before college," she said. But that tough experience was useful in that it eventually led to her looking critically at STEM retention rates among Black college students when she took up the task to complete her senior thesis. This project also fulfilled the independent work requirements for the CSML undergraduate certificate.

“That experience changed my view about STEM classes and led me to look at education policies such as ‘No Child Left Behind’ and programs such as ‘Girls Who Code.’ I became interested in the status of Black students, and that led to the subject of my senior thesis,” said Ajeigbe.

Since the 21st century, there has been a marked decrease in the number of Black people who have not only enrolled in college for STEM degrees, but also retained a STEM major throughout their collegiate careers despite programs, both public and private, which aim to increase those numbers, said Ajeigbe. 

For her senior thesis, Ajeigbe decided to compare Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) versus Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). She took data from the National Longitudinal Survey Of Freshmen and the Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman & Senior Survey and used pruned decision trees and OLS regression to uncover factors that would make a student more likely to stay in a STEM major and whether these factors changed depending on the institution, PWI or HBCU.

Drilling deeper, she found that if Black students in HBCUs switched to a non-STEM major, "it was likely because of poor academic preparation and less to do with the college environment," she said. Black students in PWIs tended to switch because of lack of academic preparation in high school as well but there were other factors including feeling uncomfortable in seeking help from professors during office hours and feelings of inadequacy from other students due to racial stereotypes.

“In general, Black students at HBCUs may feel more comfortable asking professors of their race questions without fear of insecurity,” she said.

Ajeigbe concluded that policies should tackle retention rates for STEM besides increasing access to STEM. These changes may include examining how courses are taught, looking at the role of advisors, or eliminating weed-out courses that may be racially biased.

The project cemented for Ajeigbe her enjoyment in working with data. And she found that her African American Studies major complimented her CSML certificate studies because she got to delve deeper into issues that interest her.

After graduation, Ajeigbe took up a consulting position at Curinos, a firm that provides data, technologies and insights to financial institutions. Farther into the future, she’s interested in working in data analysis for social policy, such as higher education and equity.

Extracurricular Activities:

In her last semester of college, Ajeigbe won the 27th annual Spirit of Princeton Award along with six other students because of their “strong commitment to the undergraduate experience through dedicated efforts in student organizations, athletics, community service, religious life, residential life and the arts.” 

At Princeton, Ajeigbe was president at the Princeton African Students Association, advising fellow for Princeton Matriculate, an intern in the Women*s Center, middle school liaison for Community House Executive Board, and a member of DoroBucci, an African dance group. 

For Fun:

Ajeigbe enjoys dancing and hanging out with her friends.