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A Case Study of Success: Mentoring and Supporting Underrepresented Transfer Students in a Mechanical Engineering Program

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Mentoring Minorities: Effective Programs, Practices, and Perspectives

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.21.1 - 24.21.16



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Paper Authors


Robert G. Ryan California State University, Northridge

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Dr. Ryan is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at California State University, Northridge, and is also currently serving as Special Assistant to the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. He is a long-time ASME Student Section Advisor, and has several years of experience teaching the ME capstone design course. His main technical areas of expertise are in heat transfer and fluid mechanics.

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Nathan Durdella California State University, Northridge

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Nathan Durdella is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Over the last decade, Durdella has served as a project evaluator on multiple federally funded projects, including two Title V projects and a Veterans FIPSE project, and currently serves as co-principal investigator and project evaluator for CSUN’s Title V/HSI-STEM project in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Durdella’s current research focuses on college impact and uses qualitative research methods to examine community college transfer students of color in STEM fields, female single parent students, and students who are former foster youth. Durdella completed his doctoral training at the University of California Los Angeles, where his dissertation examined the effectiveness of responsive evaluation theory in community college contexts. Durdella currently serves as an associate editor of New Directions for Community Colleges and has published work in Higher Education in Review, Journal of Studies in Education, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, and Journal of Applied Research in the Community College.

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Teodoro Navarro

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A Case Study of Success: Mentoring and Supporting Underrepresented Transfer Students in a Mechanical Engineering ProgramOur institution, like many large urban institutions, has a very diverse student body. This diversityis not only reflected in ethnic and racial differences, but also in the students’ educationalbackgrounds. Our institution enrolls a large number of transfer students, mostly from communitycolleges in our state. These students face a number of challenges, including the adjustment to anew learning environment, issues related to transfer credits, and the necessity of takingadditional courses to complete lower division major requirements.In 2011, our institution received a five-year, $5.5 million dollar HSI-STEM grant from theDepartment of Education to address the challenges faced by transfer students fromunderrepresented groups. Two local community colleges are partners in the grant. The maingoals of the grant are to recruit promising students from community colleges, and then providethem with financial and academic support to ensure their success. There are also opportunities towork on summer research projects under the guidance of their faculty mentors. The initial cohortof students that entered the program is now nearing graduation.Students in the program are enrolled in a variety of engineering disciplines, including computerscience, and are expected to spend additional time on campus in order to become more fullyengaged in their department’s activities. In the mechanical engineering department, students areencouraged to become involved as a volunteer in one of the senior capstone projects, and/orbecome active in ASME student section activities. This paper describes how the mechanicalengineering students in the program have benefited from these activities, and in particular,focuses on research work that a group of seven students (five from our institution and two fromone of our community college partners) performed in the summer of 2013. Their work wasrelated to our institution’s Human Powered Vehicle project, which is one of the senior capstoneoptions for mechanical engineering students. Specifically, the group worked on developingmethodologies for predicting drag on human powered vehicles, using the previous year’s vehicleas a test bed. The drag on this vehicle was estimated using computer simulation, wind tunneltests, and field measurements. The results of their work, and how they impacted the design ofthis year’s human powered vehicle, are discussed.

Ryan, R. G., & Durdella, N., & Navarro, T. (2014, June), A Case Study of Success: Mentoring and Supporting Underrepresented Transfer Students in a Mechanical Engineering Program Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19913

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