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An Integrated Supplemental Program to Enhance the First-year Engineering Experience

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division: Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Ordel Brown Northwestern University

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Dr. Ordel Brown is an instructional professor in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, where she currently teaches first-year engineering design courses. Her research interests in engineering education include the identification of variables that impact the first-year experience and the development of strategies to enhance it, retention of underrepresented populations in STEM fields and service-learning in engineering.

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Robin A.M. Hensel Ed.D. West Virginia University

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Robin A. M. Hensel, Ed.D., is the Assistant Dean for Freshman Experience in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University. While her doctorate is in Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on higher education teaching in STEM fields, she also holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in Mathematics. Dr. Hensel has over seven years of experience working in engineering teams and in project management and administration as a Mathematician and Computer Systems Analyst for the U. S. Department of Energy as well as more than 25 years teaching mathematics, statistics, computer science, and freshman engineering courses in higher education institutions. Currently, she leads a team of faculty who are dedicated to providing first year engineering students with a high-quality, challenging, and engaging educational experience with the necessary advising, mentoring, and academic support to facilitate their transition to university life and to prepare them for success in their engineering discipline majors and future careers.

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Melissa Lynn Morris West Virginia University

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Melissa Morris is currently a Teaching Associate Professor for the Freshman Engineering Program, in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University (WVU). She graduated Summa cum Laude with a BSME in 2006, earned a MSME in 2008, and completed her doctorate in mechanical engineering in 2011, all from WVU. At WVU, she has previously served as the Undergraduate and Outreach Advisor for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department and the Assistant Director of the Center for Building Energy Efficiency. She has previously taught courses such as Thermodynamics, Thermal Fluids Laboratory, and Guided Missiles Systems, as well as serving as a Senior Design Project Advisor for Mechanical Engineering Students. Her research interests include energy and thermodynamic related topics. Since 2007 she has been actively involved in recruiting and outreach for the Statler College, as part of this involvement Dr. Morris frequently makes presentations to groups of K-12 students, as well as perspective WVU students and their families.

Dr. Morris was selected as a Statler College Outstanding Teacher for 2012, the WVU Honors College John R. Williams Outstanding Teacher for 2012, and the 2012 Statler College Teacher of the Year.

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Joseph Dygert West Virginia University

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Ph.D student in aerospace engineering at West Virginia University

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Student retention in STEM disciplines, especially engineering, continues to be a challenge for higher education institutions. Poor retention rates have been attributed to academic and institutional isolation, exclusion from social and professional networks, unsupportive peer and family communities, a lack of knowledge about the academic community and financial obstacles. The importance of retention in engineering has attracted increasing attention from many stakeholders in academia including faculty, staff, administrators and students. Its significance goes beyond the benefits for the academic institutions to encompass national concerns.

At a large land-grant university in the mid-Atlantic region, between 2003 and 2012, an average thirty percent of first-year engineering students left engineering before their second year. A three-year study (2007-2010) done to gain insight into this attrition rate, showed that students mainly left because of low self-efficacy, lack of interest in and knowledge about engineering and the institution, disconnection from the engineering profession and academic difficulty. To address these issues, an integrated supplemental program was implemented in the first-year engineering program. Students must be in first-time, first-year standing to enroll in the program, which includes a professional development and academic success course beginning with a pre-fall bridge component. The program also provides direct pathways to academic enrichment activities such as undergraduate research. It helps students to develop strategies for academic success, explore engineering careers and start building a professional network through a multi-level peer, faculty and alumni mentoring system. Students are systematically and deliberately immersed in curricular and co-curricular activities with their peer, faculty and alumni mentors.

The program was piloted with a NASA Space Grant in 2012 and funded by NSF in 2016. The goal of this evidence-based practice paper is to share the challenges, logistics and results of the implementation of this program in our standard first-year engineering experience.

Brown, O., & Hensel, R. A., & Morris, M. L., & Dygert, J. (2018, June), An Integrated Supplemental Program to Enhance the First-year Engineering Experience Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29792

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