June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
NSF Grantees Poster Session
26.403.1 - 26.403.14
Continuous Improvement in an NSF S-STEM ProgramAbstractIn conjunction with a National Science Foundation-sponsored scholarship program, we have aninterdisciplinary peer mentoring support system for STEM students that addresses keyprofessional development areas. The students receive financial support and an opportunity todevelop academic, professional and life skills through a weekly scholars seminar. The seminarsfamiliarize scholars with various university support services, allow participation ininterdisciplinary discussions addressing broad academic and career issues, and buildrelationships with other scholars from diverse STEM disciplines. The seminar coursework iscentered on semester-long investigative projects designed and completed by teams, typicallymultidisciplinary ones. A small group of faculty oversees the seminar and selection of scholars.Our approach is to provide faculty mentoring while developing stepping-stone peer-mentoringfor professional development. This structure supports students and helps them developleadership qualities. The recipients, as defined by the program criteria, are diverse: multiplemajors, male, female, nontraditional students, students with different ethnicities, religiousaffiliations, backgrounds, and family structure. By including all eligible STEM majors at ouruniversity, we have been able to increase the number of women recipients, which creates a senseof critical mass to support the women in engineering.In the eight years since the program was founded, it has grown and developed considerably.Structural changes throughout these years include adding distance students in an off-campusprogram 280 miles away, broadening the program to include multiple science majors, funding tosupport a half-time graduate assistant, and staffing changes in the faculty mentors. Programimprovements have included annual retreats for scholars, thematic projects that connect withstudent values and interests (e.g., garbage, water, and energy issues), a focus on ethical conceptsand decision making, the addition of graduate students from our national ranked experientialeducation program, and a faculty mentor from technical communication.The focus of this paper will be on our continuous improvement process, which is based onregular observation and reflection by the students, graduate assistants, and the faculty mentors.Student surveys are conducted at the end of each semester, and informal feedback is gatheredduring large group seminars, individual meetings between students and their mentors, andstudents’ reflection journals. Faculty meet weekly for ongoing planning and also in late spring toreflect on the prior year and begin planning the next. At the beginning of the academic year,faculty decide on a theme for the two semesters; a curriculum for the weekly seminar that allowsfor job and graduate school preparation, goal development, life skills such as budgeting or work-life balance; times for multidisciplinary project work; and an itinerary for the annual retreat..Changes implemented for the current year include that support community development,increase student engagement, promote expert coaching and broader interaction with facultymentors, and develop a sense of mentoring among the faculty mentors, which include senior andjunior faculty, and with the undergraduates. Quantitative and qualitative assessment of studentexperiences will be presented in this paper. Reflections of the improvement process andimplementation by faculty mentors will also be included.
Kinzel, R. H., & Nykanen, D. K., & Bates, R. A., & Sealy, W., & Cohen, R. E., & Veltsos, J. (2015, June), Continuous Improvement in an NSF S-STEM Program Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23742
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