June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Minorities in Engineering
15.238.1 - 15.238.25
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
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