June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Minorities in Engineering
In the fall of 2015, a mentoring initiative was established at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research – with funding from the Broadening Participation in Engineering program of the National Science Foundation – in order to accomplish two main goals. First, to motivate African American, Hispanic and Native American students to study engineering and help them graduate with engineering degrees; and secondly, to help these students acquire the skills they need to become engineering professionals, academics, leaders and role models. However, this effort has also strived to answer an important research question, namely, whether mentoring in research centers offers advantages over mentoring in traditional engineering departments, an issue that has not been addressed to date by other authors in the literature. Indeed, while mentoring has been identified as an effective tool for attracting, retaining, and improving the academic performance of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines – and some studies on the mentoring of minority students in engineering have been performed and published – many questions in this area remain unanswered, including the research question above. This represents an important gap in the knowledge base, particularly since research centers commonly display a number of characteristics that could render them a favorable environment for mentoring efforts focused on broadening participation in engineering. Foremost among these characteristics is the fact that research centers commonly display higher research staff-to-student ratios; in addition, research center staff does not experience the role strain caused by the teaching and administrative load of faculty, these being conditions that can result in a more engaging, immersive and personalized mentoring experience. Notably, this mentoring initiative is not only attempting to fill the aforementioned knowledge gap, but has strived to do so by addressing the shortcomings displayed by previous mentoring studies. The latter include the fact that most studies performed to date have limited data collection to a single point in time and displayed a pre- and post-design, while a lack of control groups has also affected their internal validity. Against this backdrop, the present study has integrated both cross-sectional and longitudinal components in a quasi-experimental approach including multiple controls. Furthermore, both objective (e.g., GPAs and retention rates) and subjective (e.g., feelings of integration to the university environment and opinions on the importance of having a mentor of the same race and/or gender) data have been acquired, monitored and evaluated in and attempt to assess the effectiveness of this initiative and understand the lived experience of participating students.
Santillan-Jimenez, E., & Hodges, S., & Villasante-Tezanos, A. G., & Theakston, R. (2019, June), Broadening Participation in Engineering through a Research Center-based Mentoring Program (Research) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32480
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