August 9, 2021
August 9, 2021
August 21, 2021
Intentionally engaging students in their first year is essential for their success, yet no one intervention is likely to prove meaningful for all. Providing a variety of both optional and required learning experiences helps create an ecosystem of support by connecting students to peers, near peers, their academic advisors, and their engineering faculty. Ultimately this can help with understanding engineering expectations and opportunities, an emerging awareness of professional self and program culture, and sense of belonging to their engineering institution. This paper describes the goals, structure, resources, and outcomes of the first-year engineering system that provides this support at our university (a mid-sized liberal arts university with a small engineering program), for example:
• 24for24 -- All admitted students for the coming academic year (class of 2024) were invited to connect virtually with faculty for 24 minute-long online sessions in a focused activity to explore engineering, their interests, and possibilities for future success during the summer months from June to July. • Camp -- A two-day offsite camp for incoming first-years , with a series of individual, team, design activities that support rapid community-building and connection to the community. The camp is led by several faculty and staff, with small group facilitation by near peers. • Launch -- Three hour session at the end of the three-day university orientation provides a chance to gather and appreciate the start of the college journey. The session is hosted by several near peers and faculty, involving three outdoor activities to drive togetherness. • MADE Professional Workshops -- A Fall semester professional development series where faculty created a series of short workshops (one per month) tailored around a critical need specific for first-year students helping students to design their academic life. These critical topics were identified by students and faculty during a two-week long design sprint to elevate their impact.
These co-curricular programs and others like it often connect to curricular “hooks,” including in our Engineering Opportunities course (first Fall semester). This project-driven course was redesigned using the lenses of human-centered design and agile project management, and to connect students vertically to each other across the program through mentorship by juniors and seniors to small first-year “framilies”. This is followed with a Spring semester course, Engineering Decisions, elevating engineering practice with a semester-long project, while also introducing students to professional decision-making through ePortfolios and reflection.
Individually, these programs provide first-year students formal and informal opportunities to intentionally connect to each other, more senior students, departmental faculty and staff, alumni, while exploring their engineering hopes and dreams. Each program attempts to activate critical ingredients known to influence professional wayfinding and academic success. Taken collectively, however, they provide a robust ecosystem for supporting better transitions to college, discovering personal motivations to pursue an engineering education, and creating positive connections to others in engineering.
Paterson, K., & Henriques, J. J., & Castaneda, D. I., & Nagel, R. L., & Gipson, K. G., & Joshi, S., & Miller, C., & Nagel, J. K., & Forsyth, J. (2021, August), An ecosystem to support sense-making, identity formation, and belonging for first-year engineering students Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual . https://peer.asee.org/38367
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