June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Women in Engineering
Increasing the number of women pursuing STEM pathways is a common goal of many universities. While numerous studies and experts point toward the need to “start early” with interventions at the middle school or primary level, universities may be hesitant to offer outreach programs for young students for numerous reasons: inexperience with age-appropriate pedagogy, heightened issues of risk management, and perhaps most importantly, little evidence of benefits to the institution in a climate of limited resources. This paper reports a direct institutional benefit of a middle school outreach program for girls.
[Technological University] has offered a two-week residential engineering program for rising seventh grade girls each summer since 1997. The curriculum emphasizes the social context of engineering, project-based learning, teamwork, and connecting participants with a broad spectrum of female role models. Mentoring, communications, and activities for participants continue as they advance from seventh grade through high school. A distinctive element of [Program Name] is its quasi-experimental study of long-term program effects. Program participants are selected from the applicant pool by a lottery process, establishing two groups: girls who applied to and attended [Program Name] and girls who applied but did not attend (thus, a Control group). Previous publications have documented long-term outcomes for program cohorts compared to the Control group, including greater entry into engineering majors, and more positive and accurate perceptions of engineering.
For the current study, we cross-checked the 732 names in the [Program Name] applicant list from 1997-2010 against [Technological University] admissions records. Participants in [Program Name] applied, were accepted, and enrolled at significantly higher rates than subjects in the Control group. This finding demonstrates a direct institutional benefit and may provide assurance to other universities considering investments in middle school outreach programs for girls. We plan to extend the study by exploring the characteristics of those participants who apply to [University], including the number of “touch points” with the institution in their middle school and high school years.
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