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A Retrospective on Undergraduate Engineering Success for Underrepresented and First-Year Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Focusing on Student Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Stephen Roberts University of Florida

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Stephen, a native Floridian from Miami, is the Director for the Office of Student Transition and Retention (STAR) for the UF College of Engineering. As Director, his primary role includes oversight and coordination of first-year bridge programs, as well as, other student service retention focused programs. Stephen is a graduate of Miami Dade Junior College, (A.A), Florida State University (B.S. Interpersonal Communications, with a minor in Black & Minority Studies) and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (M.Ed. Counseling Education and Minority Mental Health).

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Fazil T. Najafi University of Florida

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Dr. Fazil T. Najafi
Dr. Najafi has worked in government, industry, and education for many years. He received his BS, MS and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His experience in the industry includes work as a highway, structural, mechanical, and consultant engineer and construction manager for US government and private companies. He taught in the Civil Engineering Department at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, a visiting professor at George Mason University, and the University of Florida, Department of Civil Engineering and Coastal Engineering. He has published and presented more than 300 refereed publications. He has received numerous awards including a Senior Fulbright scholarship award, teaching awards, best paper awards, community service awards, and admis¬sion as an Eminent Engineer into Tau Beta Pi. His research on passive radon-resistant new residential building construction adapted in HB1647 building code of Florida Legislature. Najafi is a member of numerous professional societies and has served on many committees and programs, and continuously attends and presents refereed papers at international, national, and local professional meetings and conferences. Lastly, Najafi attends courses, seminars, and workshops, and has developed courses, videos and software packages during his career. His areas of specialization include transportation planning, Engineering and management, legal aspects, construction contract administration, Renewable Energy and public works.

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Curtis R. Taylor University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Curtis R. Taylor, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida (UF). Dr. Taylor leads and manages all undergraduate student service activities including academic, professional, and extra-curricular activities in the College. Dr. Taylor directs the soft matter manufacturing and nanomechanics research lab at UF. The application of this research seeks to develop advanced manufacturing capabilities and new technologies that utilize the unique properties of nanomaterials (i.e., lightweight, durable nano coatings, multifunctional nanocomposites, etc.) and soft materials for healthcare. Before joining Florida, he was an Assistant Professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia. He received his B.S. degree (1998) in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, and his M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2005) in electrical engineering and physics from the University of Arkansas. Before coming to Arkansas in 2000, he worked for one year as a software development project manager at Capital One Financial Corporation in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Taylor has also held internship and research appointments with the U.S. Air Force, United Technologies Corporation, and the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Professor Taylor uses his expertise, knowledge, and talents to serve the University and the larger community. He strives to inspire and motivate students of all ages to pursue careers in science and technology.

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According to the National Science Board, an increase in the admission of students from underrepresented populations will be needed to improve current enrollment trends at institutions of higher education. In particular, studies show that enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of engineering students from underrepresented populations (i.e., women, ethnic minorities) have historically been lower than those of other student populations. In addition, studies suggest students from underrepresented populations face unique and amplified issues that impede their persistence and degree completion. These impediments can include inadequate K-12 preparation, social isolation on campus and other challenges related to their successful transition into the university. Over the years, many strategies have been implemented in efforts to address these challenges. These strategies have included peer counseling, faculty, and corporate mentoring, targeted academic support programs, need-based financial assistance, centralized academic advising, and student transition support. The projected shortcoming of students completing the degree program create an urgent need for diversity within the field; it is critical to increase efforts to provide first-year and underrepresented students with the academic, social and transition support needed to promote their success. The purpose of this research is to introduce the Successful Transition and Enhanced Preparation for Undergraduates Program (STEPUP) as a case study intervention to increase student success in engineering. The STEPUP program can serve as a model to assist institutions in the development of a comprehensive, step-by-step process to improve the recruitment, motivation, and retention of underrepresented student populations (USP). STEPUP was established at the University of Florida's College of Engineering twenty-five years ago and has demonstrated great promise and success retaining first-year students in engineering. The STEPUP program model includes parameterized engineering related courses, experiential learning activities, and teaching methodologies. The primary objectives of the program include 1). Increasing student success in transitioning into the university/college, 2). Developing experiential learning programs that promote student professional development and, 3). Retaining students within the major until graduation.

Roberts, S., & Najafi, F. T., & Taylor, C. R. (2019, June), A Retrospective on Undergraduate Engineering Success for Underrepresented and First-Year Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31987

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