Asee peer logo

Breaking Barriers: Pathways To Graduation For Underrepresented Talent

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Developing Young MINDS in Engineering - Part I

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.238.1 - 15.238.25



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Carol Gattis University of Arkansas

visit author page

Dr. Carol Gattis is the Associate Dean for the Honors College and an Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas. She has 17 years of experience in the areas of student recruitment, retention and diversity and has published and presented extensively on these topics. Dr. Gattis is the PI on the NSF S-STEM grant and oversees all aspects of the ECAP program.

visit author page


Todd Shields University of Arkansas

visit author page

Dr. Todd Shields is professor of political science and director of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society. His areas of research expertise include survey research, applied statistics and public opinion. He has primary responsibility for designing an on-line survey administered to all College of Engineering students during the spring semesters. He also has primary responsibility as the external evaluator of the ECAP program, assessing the effectiveness of the program for improving student grades, increasing retention and improving overall satisfaction with the college and university.

visit author page


Bryan Hill University of Arkansas

visit author page

Bryan Hill is the Assistant Dean for Student Recruitment and International Programs at the University of Arkansas College of Engineering. He has a Master’s degree in industrial engineering and more than 8 years of experience in successfully recruiting a diverse pool of engineering students. Mr. Hill leads engineering recruitment for the entire College of Engineering. Mr. Hill is a PI on grants from NSF and the Department of Education with the goal of further increasing participation of students from underrepresented populations. Mr. Hill also oversees the ECAP summer residency and recruitment program.

visit author page


Shannon Davis University of Arkansas

visit author page

Shannon Davis is the Assistant Dean for Research and the Executive Director of Diversity for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas. Her areas of research have included engineering education, survey research, and diversity issues in STEM fields.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

ECAP: A Recruitment-to-Graduation Program for Underrepresented Engineering Students Abstract

The University of Arkansas College of Engineering recently completed the first two years of a comprehensive program called the ‘Engineering Career Awareness Program’ (ECAP). This program is supported in part by an NSF grant titled “Breaking Barriers: Pathways to Graduation for Underrepresented Talent (ECAP)” (NSF award #DUE- 0807180). This program successfully removed traditional barriers to students from underrepresented groups entering and persisting in engineering disciplines. The program has already demonstrated significant increases in the number of underrepresented students entering and persisting in engineering. The ECAP students show higher GPAs, greater satisfaction with engineering and the College, have a stronger commitment to the university and maintain a more positive overall outlook regarding their college experiences than other students.

The following paper describes the program and findings of an evaluation showing that ECAP students are more successful than their non-ECAP peers and compared to previous cohorts of students (underrepresented students and all students). Quantitative studies showed statistically significant results. The ECAP program includes six components: 1) an in-residence summer bridge program; 2) a living-learning community specifically designed for ECAP students; 3) a freshman engineering program which includes specialized advising, tutoring, block scheduling, first year experience topics, and a common introductory engineering course; 4) peer mentoring; 5) yearly internships, summer research, or study abroad experience; and 6) renewable need-based scholarships. The program evaluation addressed several dimensions key to retaining and increasing the graduation rates of underrepresented students in engineering programs. The evaluation compared ECAP students with their non-ECAP peers in several ways. It followed which students changed majors, transferred to different colleges within the university, or withdrew from the university altogether. In addition, the research team conducted an internet-based survey of all engineering students during spring 2009. Students were asked about their experiences at the university and within the engineering college, the extent to which they were committed to finishing their degree, the amount of time they interacted with individuals who were different from themselves, the level of interaction they had with students and faculty, and the degree to which they felt they were a meaningful part of the college and institution.


At the turn of the 21st century, the National Science Foundation reported that African Americans made up only 6.9% of the total science and engineering workforce while people of Hispanic origin made up only 3.2%. These low percentages represent a clear opportunity for the engineering community to take advantage of the untapped talent among underrepresented ethnic minorities. An important part of realizing this potential

Gattis, C., & Shields, T., & Hill, B., & Davis, S. (2010, June), Breaking Barriers: Pathways To Graduation For Underrepresented Talent Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16439

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: © 2010 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