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Board 327: Investigating Role Identities of Low-Income Engineering Students Prior to Their First Semester of College

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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 Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Ryan Scott Hassler Pennsylvania State University, Berks

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Associate Teaching Professor of Mathematics

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Catherine L. Cohan Pennsylvania State University

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Catherine Cohan, Ph.D. has been a research psychologist for over 20 years. Her areas of expertise include engineering education, retention of underrepresented students, measurement, and assessment. She is currently an Assistant Research Professor and coor

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Dawn Pfeifer Pfeifer Reitz

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Janelle B Larson Pennsylvania State University

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Leveraging Innovation and Optimizing Nurturing in STEM: The LION STEM Scholars Program Investigating role identities of low-income engineering students prior to their first semester of college

(NSF S-STEM #2130022)

Ryan Hassler Dawn Pfeifer Reitz Janelle B Larson Catherine Cohan Sonia Delaquito The Pennsylvania State University Berks Campus

Purpose: The purpose of the Leveraging Innovation and Optimizing Nurturing in STEM Program (NSF S-STEM #2130022, known locally as LION STEM Scholars) is to support the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income engineering scholars with demonstrated financial need at Penn State Berks, a regional campus of The Pennsylvania State University. Scholars will be part of a multi-tiered mentoring program and cohort experience. The LION STEM curricular programs include a math-intensive summer bridge program, a first semester First-Year Seminar, and a second semester STEM-Persistence Seminar. Co-curricular activities focus on professional communication skills, financial literacy, career readiness, undergraduate research, and community engagement. The project will use the Dynamic Systems Model of Role Identity to examine the integrative nature of how Low-Income/College-Student/Future-Engineer role identities contribute to overall STEM identity for low-income Engineering students. This paper presents data collected from semi-structured (Smith & Osborn, 2007) audio-recorded interviews of the first cohort of LION STEM Scholars (n=7) prior to their first semester of college and before their summer bridge program.

Goals: The LION STEM Scholars program at Penn State Berks seeks to accomplish four goals: (1) Increase and diversify students in STEM by recruiting and providing significant scholarships and a college-success cohort experience to academically-talented low-income Engineering students at Penn State Berks with unmet financial need, (2) Retain and graduate more talented low-income Engineering students, (3) Analyze how evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities influence the development of STEM-identity, and (4) Disseminate findings in the areas of STEM-persistence and role identity. The primary outcome measure of the program is retention in baccalaureate Engineering majors and other STEM majors as measured by the Entrance to Major process after two to four semesters, as well as 6-year graduation rates. The goal of this paper is to use the Dynamic Systems Model of Role Identity, (Kaplan & Garner, 2017) as our theoretical framework for investigating the integrative nature of low-income/college-student/future-engineer role identities prior to scholars first semester of college and before their participation in a four-week summer bridge program. Specifically, this paper will begin to explore the ontological and epistemological beliefs, purpose and goals, self-perceptions and self-definitions, and perceived-action possibilities within and between the various role identities that high-achieving, low-income engineering students possess upon entering college.

Method: Audio-recorded interviews were conducted and transcribed from each of n=7 students from the first cohort of LION STEM Scholars before their participation in a summer bridge program. These interviews will form the basis for an interpretative phenomenological analysis, which is an in-depth exploration of how a participant perceives and makes sense of their personal and social world. Specifically, our analysis will involve identifying superordinate themes across the narratives of all scholars, which will provide a valuable baseline for understanding the STEM-identity of high-achieving low-income engineering students upon entrance to college.

Results: Data analysis is being conducted currently.

Conclusions: Conclusions are pending following completion of data analysis.

Hassler, R. S., & Cohan, C. L., & Pfeifer Reitz, D. P., & Larson, J. B. (2023, June), Board 327: Investigating Role Identities of Low-Income Engineering Students Prior to Their First Semester of College Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42921

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: © 2023 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