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A Need For Systems Oriented Outreach: Lessons From A Failed, 1 Dimensional Approach

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Learning Needs and Educational Success

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.69.1 - 13.69.8



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Paper Authors

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Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University

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Victor Granados California Polytechnic State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Need for Systems-Oriented Outreach: Lessons from a failed, 1-dimensional approach


To increase the probability of college-level academic resilience of Hispanic high-school students, we initiated an in-school tutoring and mentoring program. We provided 15 classroom laptops and free access to a multi-lingual web-based math tutoring site to two test cohorts of high-school juniors totaling 56 students. The weekly mentoring was provided by college-aged students (Hispanic and other descent) and an Hispanic adult engineer. The research question that we were addressing was: Can web-based math tutorials in Spanish engender greater confidence in math and interest in higher education within a Hispanic high-school community? At the end of six months, the pre- and post-tests of the test cohorts and quasi-control groups (128 students) revealed no significant differences in students' interest in math, interest in college, or confidence in math. This particular course consisted of students who had failed math in the previous year. Socioeconomic demographic data of the test and control cohorts was analyzed also, finding no significant differences between the groups. In other words, it does not appear that the web- tutorials and weekly tutoring with a mentor of similar ethnicity had a measurable impact over the course of the study. To gain further insight, students in the test cohort also generated "user profiles" of a high-school students, listing their needs if they were to go to college along with their concerns. The resulting profiles, focusing on a range of social factors related to learning motivation, underscore the need for outreach activities to incorporate a systems approach, simultaneously leveraging the multitude of factors that contribute to academic resilience. In this paper, we present the failed 1-dimensional approach, the data from the "user profiles", and a guidelines for engineering faculty to enable more effective outreach.


This is a paper about failure...the failure of a well-intentioned group of engineering faculty to recognize the need for non-engineering perspectives to solve a socially-related "problem." The problem that we were attempting to solve was the problem of low retention of Hispanic students in our engineering program. Over the course of about 15 years, we observed a high rate attrition among Hispanic students with a common theme of difficulty in mathematics. We note that students in our program are predominantly white (~80%) or of asian descent (~10%) with a small proportion of HIspanic students (~10%). Over the course of 15 years, this constitutions approximately 35 students. While our program is too small to make statistical inferences regarding this observed trend, the issue of academic risk of underrepresented students in general has been studied 1 as well as the issue of resilience in mathematics for underrepresented students 2 . Engineering programs traditionally experience attrition rates from the freshmen year to graduation ranging from ~45% to 70% {Fortenberry, 2007 #201, but our observations over time told us that we were losing Hispanic students at a disproportionately high rate. In retrospect, students who left our program often leave due to difficulty in calculus, which largely functions as a "weeder" course, weeding our many who do perform to the courses' standards.

Vanasupa, L., & Granados, V. (2008, June), A Need For Systems Oriented Outreach: Lessons From A Failed, 1 Dimensional Approach Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4488

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