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Affinity Groups: More Bang For The Buck

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Recruiting/Retention Lower Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.171.1 - 8.171.9



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Paper Authors

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Terrence Freeman

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Jessica du Maine

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

Section 2516

Affinity Groups: More Bang for the Buck

Jessica J. du Maine, Terrence L. Freeman, Bernard Keely, Jessica Roberts St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley

Abstract Retention of students in engineering programs is an on-going challenge. Many students are lost because of a decline in their interest in engineering, poor faculty pedagogy, or a feeling of isolation. The latter is a problem that is frequently encountered by women or other underrepresented groups in engineering programs. On commuter campuses there are additional challenges as the external environment continues to compete for the time and attention of students. This pull is particularly disruptive when a student is enrolled in a program as rigorous as engineering. Minority students and women often bring different personal and social histories to their college and engineering experience and they may require different persistence strategies. Students with higher levels of self-confidence tend to perform better and remain enrolled. Self- confidence tends to correlate with other positive indicators of persistence such as higher levels of interest in coursework, positive relationships with faculty, involvement in student societies, seminars, conferences and events, and participating in internships. Research suggests that affinity groups can play a significant role in the persistence of women and minority engineering students by providing exposure to the field as well as opportunities to enhance the self-confidence of the student. Through affinity groups, students forge stronger relationships with faculty and tend to become more involved with the campus. St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley was the first community college in the country to obtain a student chapter in the National Society of Black Engineers. Since doing so in the late nineties, the student chapter has played a significant role in retaining African-American students and attracting new students to the campus. This paper examines the value of this organization, the process for achieving this recognition and the accomplishments of the students over the last five years.

Introduction The twenty-first century will be dominated by technological change as the United States economy becomes increasingly dependent on a technically literate workforce. Engineering is one of the careers that will help fuel the engine of economic growth1. If the United States is to maintain its technological leadership in this interdependent global economy, it must take advantage of the entire pool of talent that the nation has to offer. Many major corporations now support the thesis that diversity makes good business sense. Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans, however, still remain significantly underrepresented in science and engineering with roughly half of the science and engineering degrees awarded to minority citizens going to Asian Americans1. The difficulty of meeting the engineering needs of the U.S. economy is exacerbated by a disturbing trend. Over the past twenty years, there has been an increase in attrition of engineering students. In 1975, the attrition rate for engineering freshmen was 12% and by 1990 it had grown to 24% 2. Less than half of the students who start college as “Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Freeman, T., & du Maine, J. (2003, June), Affinity Groups: More Bang For The Buck Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12227

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