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A Supplemental Instruction Program For Enhanced Retention Of Minority Engineering Students

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.110.1 - 9.110.5



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Paper Authors

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Leotis Parrish

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Devdas Pai

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

A Supplemental Instruction Program for Enhanced Retention of Minority Engineering Students

D. M. Pai and Leotis L. Parrish College of Engineering North Carolina A&T State University Greensboro, NC 27411

Abstract The College of Engineering (CoE) at North Carolina A&T State University (A&T), along with the other schools on campus, has enjoyed surging enrollment increases over the last three years. This increased enrollment has benefited the campus in terms of increased faculty and staff positions to serve the students, but has given rise to an equal number of challenges – such as strains on physical resources such as classrooms and computing facilities. More importantly, there has been an imperceptible but very definite creeping up of class sizes in the lower-level critical core classes – the ones where one-to-one interaction is crucial for students to grasp the more complex and abstract concepts. This latter consideration has a direct and potentially negative impact on the retention of students especially in the science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET) areas.

The CoE has anticipated these problems in planning for its growth. A Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program has been instituted to enhance retention, particularly of minority students, by providing them with two or three opportunities every week to interact one-to-one with student SI facilitators to review and reinforce the fundamentals introduced by the instructor in a formal classroom setting. From its modest beginnings in Fall 2001, where two core courses were supported, the program has expanded coverage to as many as 18 core courses from the engineering and basic sciences. One or more SIs are assigned to a particular course. SI recruitment is selective, hiring students that have recently completed the same course with a B or better. This places them in a better situation to share both the fundamentals as well as successful test-taking and situation-handling techniques. Our results are very encouraging, and an unexpected additional benefit observed is the increased confidence of SIs in their own knowledge and communications skills and an increased interest in exploring academia as a career option.

Introduction The first year has been determined by many reports and studies to be the most critical time for a new student on any college campus. The first year lays the foundation for the undergraduate curriculum and determines whether the student will be successful in subsequent years. Further, it has been proven that the characteristic traits modeled during the first year will continue to influence the student in the sophomore, junior, and senior years. These traits are seen not only in academics, but also in the professional, personal, and social development areas.

A study of A&T’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science programs revealed that approximately 20% of the freshmen students drop out after the first year. This is due to the distractions that a freshman student is exposed to and the resulting difficulty in adjusting to them. However, providing students a head start during the freshmen year can lead to a 5 % or more improvement in the retention rate. The SI Program was one of the many unique strategies

Parrish, L., & Pai, D. (2004, June), A Supplemental Instruction Program For Enhanced Retention Of Minority Engineering Students Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12872

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