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A Comprehensive Plan to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates in Engineering Fields

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.30.1 - 25.30.6



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Paper Authors


Mehdi Shadaram University of Texas, San Antonio

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Mehdi Shadaram is the Briscoe Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Associate Dean of Engineering, and the founding Director of the Center for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Prior to joining UTSA in 2003, he was the Schellenger Endowed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso. His main area of research activity is in the broadband analog and digital fiber optic and wireless communication systems. He has published more than 100 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings. He has been either PI or Co-PI for numerous grants and contracts, totaling more than $10 million in the past 15 years. NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Instruments, and Lucent Technologies have funded his research projects. He is the recipient of the excellence in engineering research award at the College of Engineering at UTSA in 2010, the best teacher award in the College of Engineering at UTEP in 1994, and the NASA monetary award for contribution to the space exploration. He has been the General Chair, Session Chair, TPC Chair, and Panelist in several IEEE conferences. He has served in numerous review panels. He is Senior Member of IEEE and member of OSA, SPIE, ASEE, and HKN. He is also a Professional Registered Engineer in the state of Texas. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1984 from University of Oklahoma.

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Thomas B. Morrow University of Texas, San Antonio

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Thomas Morrow is an Adjunct Professor in the College of Engineering at UTSA. He has B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia and Texas and has worked for E.I. duPont de Nemours (Textile Fibers Dept.) and Southwest Research Institute. He is a member of ASME and Sigma Xi.

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C. Mauli Agrawal University of Texas, San Antonio

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Mauli Agrawal is the Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA).

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A Comprehensive Plan to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates in Engineering FieldsThis paper describes the implementation of a comprehensive engineering education improvementplan which includes a fusion of strategies with the long-term objective the minimization offactors that adversely affect academic performance of entering minority freshmen. Thesestrategies are intended to minimize the impact of deviations that, if too great and side effects toomany, then the probability of the desired outcome becomes far removed and its predictabilityentirely uncertain, particularly for students from low socio-economic groups and historicallyunderrepresented minorities. The most important desired outcome is graduation, and asimportantly, graduation in 6 years or less, which the state of Texas has mandated to be 53% by2016.Thus the purpose of this project at UTSA is to increase post secondary enrollments, retention,and the number of engineering graduates, and to increase collaboration between UTSA’sengineering departments and the private companies in Texas who employ these graduates. Thepriorities of this effort are:1. Develop, grow and maintain the engineering bridge program targeting Hispanic female pre- freshmen entering Biomedical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, and Mechanical engineering.2. Improve student learning in the freshman mathematics curriculum and thereby increase retention and graduation time by facilitating a “just-in-time” pedagogical approach to non- calculus ready students, which the majority of our minority students are.3. Maintain and strengthen the engineering mentoring programs, with the particular focus of increasing the numbers, retention, and graduation time and rates of Hispanic female engineering students.The plan includes a comprehensive and integrated strategy that involves fusing 5 recognizededucation best practices as follows: 1) recruitment; 2) formal mentoring through peer mentors; 3)summer immersion camp/engineering math prep and workshops; 4) academic year stipends; andsummer internships in local and regional companies.The three dependent variables that measure quality (GPA), system reliability (Retention - RET),and time (Progress Toward Degree - PTD) are used for the assessment purposes for two groupsof students: Pilot and Traditional groups. Retention is defined as the ratio of those cohorts inengineering versus the total number that began. PTD is especially important given the impetusplaced on 6 year graduation rates by the State. Loosely defined, it is quantified as the ratio ofnumber of degree catalog hours earned to the targeted number of degree hours at any point intime. The pilot program has been in place for the last 4 years; thereafter, based on thepreliminary assessment, a full implementation can be undertaken; that is, all engineering studentswould go through the new process.

Shadaram, M., & Morrow, T. B., & Agrawal, C. M. (2012, June), A Comprehensive Plan to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates in Engineering Fields Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20790

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