Asee peer logo

Board 140: "STEP-ing" Up: Building a Successful Student Leadership Program

Download Paper |


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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Adrienne Steele Louisiana State University

visit author page

Adrienne Steele has over 18 years experience in STEM education. Currently, Adrienne works at Louisiana State University, managing all aspects of the STEP project that consists of a large-scale peer mentoring program in the College of Engineering. Previously, she founded and coordinated the Scope-On-A-Rope Outreach Program (SOAR) in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she worked for 10 years. Prior to her positions at LSU, Adrienne was the Science Education Curator at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge. Adrienne has a Master of Science degree in zoology from LSU, where she studied in the Museum of Natural Science collections, and an Education Specialist Certification in science education.

visit author page


Warren N. Waggenspack Jr. Louisiana State University

visit author page

Warren N. Waggenspack, Jr. is currently the Undergraduate Program Director and holder of the Ned Adler Professorship in Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana State University. He obtained both his baccalaureate and master's degrees from LSU ME and his doctorate from Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering. He has been actively engaged in teaching, research and curricula development since joining the LSU faculty in 1988. As Associate Dean in the College of Engineering (2004-2014), he acquired significant funding from NSF to support the development of several initiatives aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates as well as supporting faculty with development of effective learning and teaching pedagogies.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The College of Engineering (CoE) at XX University has built a highly successful student mentoring and leadership program over the past ten years initiated with support from the NSF STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP). The peer mentor program evolved from the STEP 1a grant in response to a need for upper-level students to assist with the freshman bridge camp. Starting the camp with five mentors in 2008, it now engages over 160 in 2017 and encompasses significant leadership training. Peer mentors are undergraduates from all majors within the College of Engineering including second semester freshmen through graduating seniors. In 2010, the students at XXU established a new organization, the Society of Peer Mentors (SPM) to formalize their efforts at the university. SPM fosters a hierarchy of upper-level students serving as leaders to mentor new members and to create and deliver programs. Peer Mentor Leaders (PML) facilitate the recruiting, application and interview process for new SPM members; they lead projects and supervise other mentors during the freshman camp, and they often serve as officers and chairs of the student organization.

Mentors participate in at least 12 hours of leadership training each year, which in the past two years has grown to include an off-campus, overnight retreat. At these leadership trainings, they learn about mentoring and leadership principles while bonding through team building activities. A strength of this program is that students quickly put their skills to use through developing and leading a wide variety of activities. Mentors serve as engineering supplemental instructors (initiated with the STEP 1b award), work in K-12 schools as mentors for robotics teams, perform several hours of outreach to K-12 students each semester, and mentor incoming freshmen during the bridge camp and introductory courses. Mentors are also encouraged to pursue their own ideas and passions, and they are given support to plan and carry out novel programs. Mentors have written proposals and been given seed funds for innovative activities such as a the first 24-hour computer hackathon in [state], a weekend bootcamp for sophomores in chemical engineering, and a 3-day robot build, each demonstrating leadership and commitment to the community.

Analyses have shown that mentors are retained and graduate in engineering at a 30-40% higher rate than their CoE peers. Over 80 mentors have graduated since the beginning of this program and are now employed across a spectrum of engineering industries. They continue to serve as important role models for our students, returning to share their stories and experiences starting engineering careers.

Steele, A., & Waggenspack, W. N. (2018, June), Board 140: "STEP-ing" Up: Building a Successful Student Leadership Program Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29941

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015