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Alva: A Successful Program For Increasing The Number Of Minority Undergraduates Who Earn Engineering Degrees

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Outreach and Recruitment

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.146.1 - 10.146.8

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Paper Authors

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Scott Pinkham

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Cathryne Jordan

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Lisa Peterson

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

ALVA: A Successful Program for Increasing the Number of Minority Undergraduates who Earn Engineering Degrees

Lisa Peterson, Scott Pinkham, Cathryne Jordan

College of Engineering, University of Washington


A highly successful minority outreach and support program for incoming college freshmen in engineering is described. The University of Washington has been running ALVA (Alliances for Learning and Vision for underrepresented Americans) for 11 years and continuously tracks its participants. Partners in ALVA come from the government, education, and industry. This program targets talented underrepresented minority students and addresses four major hurdles that face minority students in engineering: lack of vision of themselves as an engineer, finances, community, and academic preparation. We will present ALVA as a model that can be duplicated at other colleges and universities.


Many studies have proven that underrepresented minority undergraduates drop out of engineering at a higher rate than their Caucasian and Asian peers7,1,12,14. For those who are retained, one of the most accurate predictors of success in engineering is GPA, both for high school, and especially for the first year in college6. In 1993, the University of Washington’s Minority and Science Engineering Program (MSEP) began a new initiative – the Alliance for Learning and Vision for underrepresented Americans (ALVA). The purpose of ALVA is to increase students’ success during their first year in college and address multiple factors that negatively impact minority students’ success in engineering14. These factors include finances11, academic preparation12,3, difficulty envisioning themselves as engineers12, and lack of community on campus15.


Underrepresented minorities (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native) comprise 19% of the US population, but only 6% of the professionals in engineering2. Washington state enjoys many opportunities for engineers to work, and ranks 13th in the nation in the number of engineers with doctorates9, so there are many career opportunities for engineers in the Pacific Northwest. However, few underrepresented minorities receive degrees in engineering. Nationwide, 7% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded are in engineering. Whites earn 77% of these degrees, while African Americans earn 2.4% and Hispanic/Latinos earn only 1.5%4.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Pinkham, S., & Jordan, C., & Peterson, L. (2005, June), Alva: A Successful Program For Increasing The Number Of Minority Undergraduates Who Earn Engineering Degrees Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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