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Board # 98 : STILAS: STEM Intercultural Leadership Ambassador Scholars in Biology, Marine Biology, and Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


William J. Palm IV Roger Williams University

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William Palm is Assistant Professor of Engineering at Roger Williams University, where he teaches Engineering Graphics and Design, Computer Applications for Engineering, Machine Design, Manufacturing and Assembly, Biomechanics, and Capstone Design. He previously worked as a product design engineer and consultant and taught at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Boston University. He holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is licensed as a Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Nicole Martino Roger Williams University

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Dr. Nicole Martino is an assistant professor of engineering at Roger Williams University. Her area of expertise is civil engineering, more specifically structural engineering. Dr. Martino's current research areas include developing innovative tools to improve the learnability of topics in heavy analytical courses, and developing rapid, accurate and efficient bridge deck condition assessment models using ground penetrating radar.

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Benjamin D McPheron Roger Williams University

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Benjamin D. McPheron is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Roger Williams University. Dr. McPheron received his B.S.E.E. in Electrical Engineering at Ohio Northern University in 2010, and his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Department of Electrical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University in 2014. Dr. McPheron teaches Freshman Engineering and various courses in Electrical Engineering including Circuit Theory, Signals and Systems, Electromagnetic Theory, Digital Signal Processing, and Dynamic Modeling and Control. His research interests include Engineering Education, Control Systems, Robotics, and Signal Processing.

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Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in engineering, both nationally and at Roger Williams University. In 2012, women constituted just 12% of engineering graduates at the university, while minorities constituted just 4%. In an effort to boost the enrollment, performance, and persistence of underrepresented students, the university applied for and received an NSF S-STEM grant to integrate engineering, biology, and marine biology students into an existing program supporting underrepresented students on campus. The combined program, known as STILAS, provides participants with a $10,000 NSF scholarship, supplemented by the university, as well as dedicated tutoring and advising, and co-curricular activities such as field trips and guest speakers.

Midway through the final year of the 5-year grant, the results are impressive. Nine of the ten engineering student participants have either graduated in four years in engineering or are on track to do so (the tenth changed major to mathematics), compared to just 57% of women and 25% of underrepresented minorities entering the engineering program in 2011 or 2012. The STILAS engineering students’ combined GPA is 3.60, compared to 3.31 for all women and 2.56 for all underrepresented minorities currently enrolled in engineering.

The program has benefited non-participants as well: persistence of women in engineering has increased from 54% of those entering in 2011 to 92% of those entering in 2013 or after. Women made up 31% of the graduating class of 2016, 2.5 times greater than the proportion in 2012. Persistence of underrepresented minorities has increased from 29% for those entering in 2011 to 50% for those entering in 2013 or after. Unfortunately, total enrollment of underrepresented minorities has not grown. The recruitment of underrepresented students has proven more challenging than their retention. Future work will focus on recruitment, including outreach to local high schools and the development of bridge and/or transfer programs.

Palm, W. J., & Martino, N., & McPheron, B. D. (2017, June), Board # 98 : STILAS: STEM Intercultural Leadership Ambassador Scholars in Biology, Marine Biology, and Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27968

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