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Access To Engineering: A Description And An Evaluation Of A Pre Collegiate Program For Minorities And Women

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.52.1 - 1.52.16



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Paper Authors

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William P. Darby

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Nancy Shields

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H. Richard Grodsky

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

Session 2270

Access to Engineering: A Description and an Evaluation of a Pre-Collegiate Program for Minorities and Women

Nancy Shields, H. Richard Grodsky, and William P. Darby The University of Missouri-St. Louis/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program

Background In 1990, the Congressional Research Service presented a major report to congress on the status of underrepresented minorities and women in science, mathematics, and engineering.10 In that report, Matthews (p. 65) stated that:

The discrepancy between minority participation in science, mathematics and engineering and overall minority trends is one of the most critical issues confronting the educational system.

For example, by the year 2000, 85 percent of those entering the labor force for the first time are expected to be women, minorities, immigrants, and disabled individuals. Furthermore, in 1990, 23 of the largest 25 school districts in the United States were dominated by “minorities.” Accordingly, the need to diversify the pipeline of engineering students arises not only from a desire to provide equal opportunity to all, but from a very practical concern of a serious shortfall of scientists and engineers in the very near future.1

Many reasons have been cited for the low enrollments and poor retention of women and minorities in mathematics, science and engineering. Reasons include the absence of role models,7,22 a shortage of minority faculty and administrators in universities,21 lack of encouragement to women and minorities to continue in programs,14 financial difficulties,11 cultural stereotypes concerning women and minorities,5,13,16 and outright discrimination.6,8

However, an immediate stumbling block for women and minorities to program admission and success at the college level appears to be the inadequate preparation in mathematics and science in high school.19 For example, students who take more science courses in high school have higher standardized test scores and do better in freshman science courses.2 Female and minority students are less likely to participate in science and mathematics enrichment programs and often end up in high school “tracks” that provide little mathematics or science.6

Furthermore, students selected for advanced study in mathematics and science at the secondary level are usually the “cream,” and therefore are a very small group. A different model has been proposed that argues for broadening the pool of potential students at the secondary level, rather than “skimming the cream.” 23 Others have also argued that there is a larger, able, potential pool of students below the very top group that should be encouraged to pursue careers in mathematics, science and engineering.4,15 Many of these students are women and minorities. In response to the need to recruit minorities and women to mathematics, science and engineering at the college level, special pre-collegiate programs were initiated in the mid-1970s, and have proliferated. 10,12 These

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Darby, W. P., & Shields, N., & Grodsky, H. R. (1996, June), Access To Engineering: A Description And An Evaluation Of A Pre Collegiate Program For Minorities And Women Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5878

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