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Challenges And Opportunities In Working With Minority/Overseas Reu Students

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Research

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.315.1 - 11.315.5



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Paper Authors


Robert Nerenberg University of Notre Dame

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Robert Nerenberg is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. His research is in biological/biofilm treatment processes.

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

Challenges and Opportunities in Working with Minority/Overseas REU Students


This paper describes our experience recruiting and hosting a Hispanic REU student for an Environmental Engineering research project. The paper describes challenges related to language, culture, and technical background, and provides suggested strategies for addressing the challenges and improving the REU experience. While the paper focuses on a Hispanic student from Puerto Rico, the strategies may be applicable to other situations, such as minority or foreign exchange students or foreign or minority graduate students.


The engineering and science fields historically have been underrepresented in women and in several minorities.1 Underrepresented minorities include Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders. While the percentage of minorities in science and engineering generally has improved since the early1990s, the gap continues to be significant, especially for blacks and Hispanics.2

Many universities, government agencies, and non-profit agencies carry out significant efforts to increase minority representation at the undergraduate and graduate levels.3 An effective means for attracting talented minority students to graduate school is via undergraduate research experiences.4 The National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is an excellent vehicle for promoting undergraduate research, and NSF strongly encourages the involvement of underrepresented minority students.

The author, advisor to the REU student discussed in this paper, was American-born to Argentine parents, and spent 14 years living in Argentina as an adolescent and young adult. This life experience provided him with fluency in Spanish and with familiarity with Latin American and Hispanic culture, potentially enabling him to become an effective REU advisor and role model for Hispanic students.

The following sections describe our experience in recruiting and hosting a Hispanic REU student from Puerto Rico. We describe the recruitment process, research project, language and cultural issues, results of the REU experience, and strategies for improving the REU experience.

Student Recruitment

Our recruitment objectives were twofold. We were interested in recruiting minority students into our NSF-sponsored REU program. However, we also wanted to increase the pool of Hispanic applicants to our graduate program. The REU recruitment was normally arranged by the NSF- funded center’s outreach coordinator; however, we used a special approach to recruit Hispanic students.

Nerenberg, R. (2006, June), Challenges And Opportunities In Working With Minority/Overseas Reu Students Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1385

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