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Board 258: Diversifying the Graduate Student Pipeline to Academia: Challenges in Recruitment of Low-Income, High Achieving Students to Graduate School—Award # 2130403

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Janna Jobel University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Dr. Janna Jobel received her PhD in Educational Leadership researching the ways in which social emotional competencies are taught in STEM high schools. She is now a postdoctoral research associate in the Biomedical Engineering department of UMass Lowell conducting interdisciplinary research to better understand what factors most influence the K-20 STEM pipeline.

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Yanfen Li University of Massachusetts Lowell Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Yanfen Li is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2018. Dr. Li has extensive experience in engineering education focusing on recruitment and retention of underrepresented and under resourced students and engineering pedagogy. Her work spans the areas of curriculum instruction and design, program design and evaluation, and the first-year college experience.

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Hsien-Yuan Hsu University of Massachusetts, Lowell Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Hsien-Yuan Hsu is an Associate Professor in Research and Evaluation in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Hsu received his PhD in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University and has a background of statistics education. He works closely with researchers in STEM to pursue high quality of STEM education for future researchers. He is currently participating in an NSF-funded grant (#1923452) to spearhead research into middle school students’ digital literacies and assessment. Recently, Dr. Hsu has received a seed grant at UML to investigate how undergraduate engineering students’ digital inequalities and self-directed learning characteristics (e.g., self-efficacy) affect their learning outcomes in a virtual laboratory environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Hsu’s research interests include advanced quantitative design and analysis and their applications in STEM education, large-scale assessment data (e.g., PISA), and engineering students’ perception of faculty encouragement and mentoring.

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In higher education, faculty diversity is critical for a variety of important outcomes, including supporting students in pursuing and persisting in STEM fields by providing in-group role models. However, current engineering faculty do not equitably represent the general population. In order to address this lack of representation in higher education engineering programs, the University of Lowell S-STEM program has the goal to recruit three cohorts of low-income, high-achieving students who wish to pursue a career in higher education. The UML S-STEM program supports engineering scholars for four years, their last two years of undergraduate school and their first two years of graduate school. The goal of the program is to attract and retain diverse engineering S-STEM scholars and prepare them to enter the competitive pool of future faculty candidates.

We present our successes and challenges in recruiting the first two cohorts of low-income, high-achieving students. In the first year, we focused on email blasts, a social media campaign, partnering with student groups, and general outreach via career panels. 55 eligible students were identified by the financial aid office, 12 applications received, and 4 students fit the timeline and eligibility requirements (all were accepted). Three of the four are first generation students, and three of the four identify as students from underrepresented minority backgrounds in engineering. Recruitment lessons learned were that because the scholarship opportunity is so unique, emails alone from a faculty member the students are not familiar with do not work well. Additionally, sophomores are often not proactively seeking more information and scholarship opportunities for graduate school. As a result of these findings, we increased our outreach opportunities to allow students to discuss and explore the benefits of graduate school to build the interest and self-efficacy of our target population. Further, we asked faculty members that work with the students to reach out to students individually and encourage them to apply. Using this approach, after identifying 79 eligible students, 38 applications were received, 84% from our list of eligible students, and 63% from populations underrepresented in engineering.

Jobel, J., & Li, Y., & Hsu, H. (2023, June), Board 258: Diversifying the Graduate Student Pipeline to Academia: Challenges in Recruitment of Low-Income, High Achieving Students to Graduate School—Award # 2130403 Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42704

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