S12: Strategies with Undergraduates II

Chair: Richard McGee

How to Integrate Sustainability Concerns into Retention Strategies of Minority Engineering Students through Experiential Learning Interventions
Imelda Olague-Caballero and Delia Valles-Rosales—both of New Mexico State University

Global and cultural competencies of minority students could be incorporated to the engineering curriculum through experiential learning interventions. Experiential learning has been used as a retention strategy of minority students based on its capacity to foster skills and abilities more effectively learned outside a formal curriculum, specifically in real world scenarios. To understand the implications that experiential learning has on the professional performance of minority engineering graduates, the present study examined a program that has been in place since fall 2012. This program was framed on an industry-university partnership that promotes the integration of students’ technical knowledge with and understanding of engineering practice in different real working environments. The proposed educational model used to ensure the development of the students_ ability to value diversity and to work effectively across cultures, while learning and practicing fundamental concepts of industrial engineering such us lean manufacturing, time studies, line balancing, quality control, and safety engineering in a real world scenario. The model was framed in the sophomore and senior curriculum series of IE 316 Methods Engineering & IE 478 Facilities Planning. The model consists of five components: identification and selection of industry partners and potential projects; attendance to in-class mini-lectures & assignment of pertinent readings supporting the selected project; student’s training previous to their incorporation to the project; monitoring students_ progress by supervision of peer & industry mentors and class instructor; continuous evaluation and assessment of the learning experience through weekly reports and a final project presentation to the company’s CEO. Completing the educational cycle, cultural competencies were developed throughout the model components by exposing the students to interactions with industry personnel at several levels including staff engineers, technicians, and blue-collar operators with different cultural and ethnical backgrounds. Partial results indicated that the design, structure, and application of the program and its success depend on the implementation of quality assurance techniques, permanent monitoring of students, and constant communication with the industry partner. Current concerns include how to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. Proposed sustainability strategies include: Identify long-term benefits to flow from project; identify stakeholders for long-term benefits and determine level of support; identify and emphasize benefits that the industry partner; assess institutional support of the program through open ended questions evaluated through a multivariate technique called Structural Equations Modeling (allows for the study of complex relationships among variables and for inclusion of latent variables – not directly observable or measurable It is expected that this strategies will set the foundations of continuous improvement process that may help to secure the sustainability of the program.

Interventions That Work (and Some That Do Not)

Keith H. Pannell and Denise Carrejo—both of University of Texas at El Paso

For 30 years, using funding from the NIH MARC Program, we have mentored and guided undergraduate students through the last two years of their degree programs into Ph.D. programs and subsequent careers. To date a large majority of the UG participants have been successful in this transition and have obtained (are obtaining) Ph.D. degrees. Many of the graduates hold faculty positions. The positive outcome of this program is primarily associated with an intensive UG research training program, and for example, each student must write and orally defend a research thesis prior to graduation.

Concurrently for the past 5 years, using funding from the NSF S-STEM program we have embarked upon a scholarship program to facilitate the navigation of the first two years of college by our incoming freshman students. This was a time period we identified as crucial for retention in, and graduation from, a STEM degree program. A mandatory aspect of the scholarship award was on-campus living, an unusual feature at an Urban University, where the students can live only minutes away from the campus. This programmatic requirement has proven to be key to the overall success of the program, along with allocation of an individual faculty tutor. Also in our environment, which contains a large Hispanic population, the ability of the student to be home with family for portions of the weekend has been a major feature in obtaining parental approval of the program, since often the scholarship awarded covers only the cost of housing, i.e. financially it is a sum zero activity.

For both the NIH and NSF programs, a important aspect in keeping a cohort cohesiveness, and providing a depth of engagement amongst the students, is an annual research, science ethics course combining both students groups.

The outcomes of the two programs, and the various interventions used, will be presented in quantitative terms (credit hours taken, GPA achieved, time to graduation (including comparisons where available with peer cohorts not in such programs, and Ph.D. and published research papers produced). Overall a major key to this success is program flexibility and the capacity to change proposed activities to suit the needs of the students, and the local environment. Unsuccessful interventions, mentors and activities must be readily jettisoned, and their fruitful counterparts expanded.

Disciplinary First-Year Seminar Tackles the Achievement Gap

Caroline Jakuba Wienhold, Tawnya L. Cary and Janet L. Branchaw—all of WISCIENCE University of Wisconsin-Madison

As part of a HHMI Undergraduate Science Education award, we developed a series of interventions to address an achievement gap and the subsequent loss of underrepresented minority (URM) and first-generation college students (FGEN) from biology at UW-Madison. Overall, these populations of students earn lower grades in introductory biology courses at UW-Madison than majority students, and, even when earning passing grades, leave the biosciences at a higher rate. Though there are many programs for underrepresented student populations on our campus that support retention in general, there is a gap in support for student success and retention in biology specifically.

Evidence from the literature shows that having a sense of community increases student retention and success in college. Therefore, our aim was to develop interventions designed to create discipline-based learning communities to impact biology students specifically. Interventions included a 3-day freshman orientation (MadBiology Boot Camp), a learning center (BioCommons), a residential learning community (BioHouse) and a first-year seminar (Exploring Biology). The Exploring Biology first-year seminar (FYS) will be described and its outcomes to date presented.

Topical, disciplinary or remedial themed FYS introduce students to campus resources, support student acclimation to college, study skills development, and individual self-exploration. Tinto’s theory of social and academic integration proposes that the level of integration achieved by a student in the first year dictates the likelihood that she/he will be retained and ultimately complete a degree. Tinto argues students achieve integration through their own motivation and, importantly, through support from the university in five broad categories including: academic involvement and support, early contact and community building, transition assistance, counseling and advising, monitoring and early warning.

Combining the disciplinary theme of a FYS with Tinto’s theory, we hypothesized that providing transitional support in a discipline-based format would lead to improved retention and success for URM and FGEN students in biology. Exploring Biology supports students’ academic, social and developmental needs as they transition to college and engages them in the exploration of biology as a discipline and potential career path. The course goals are to help students develop disciplinary ways of thinking, develop awareness of and access to biology co-curricular learning opportunities, and explore and prepare for careers in biology.

Outcomes from 6 semesters of Exploring Biology were measured using student record data, a pre/post survey, focus groups and an alumni survey. There was a significant reduction in adverse outcomes (D, F or drop grades, p).

S13: Student Pipelines and Teacher Training

Don't forget to join us in San Antonio for the 2017 UI Conference!

Our 9th Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers will be held at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, in downtown San Antonio.