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Effects of a One-Week Research Program on the Graduate School Pipeline and Graduate Student Professional Development

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Graduate Programs, Development, and Research Fellowships

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Vanessa Dunn University of Colorado, Boulder

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Vanessa Dunn is the Director of Student Engagement and Community Building at the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and an M.A. in Educational Policy, both from the University of Colorado Boulder. She taught math at the high school level and also has a background in Student Affairs (Residential Life/Education). She is committed to creating inclusive communities and utilizing best practices to support students in their academic and personal success.

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Sarah Miller University of Colorado, Boulder

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Sarah Miller provides vision and leadership for the recruitment, retention, and success of outstanding and diverse students, faculty, and staff to the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. As Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence, she leads the Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center, overseeing efforts to attract and prepare students for the rigors of engineering study and careers, and to improve student performance and graduation rates. Appointed in January 2014, Miller comes to CU-Boulder from the National Science Foundation, where she worked in STEM education as a American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow.

Sarah believes that every child deserves an excellent education. She has worked in inner-city public schools, both as a teacher and as an administrator, and in the admissions office of Amherst College, where she earned a B.A. in Chemistry. She holds a PhD from Yale University in chemical and environmental engineering, where her doctoral research produced a bio-based water purification system for removing arsenic from developing world water supplies.

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Stephanie Swartz University of Colorado, Boulder

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Stephanie is a PhD student in Professor Kelvin Wagner's group in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at CU Boulder, where she studies optical frequency comb spectroscopy and applications of nonlinear optics. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Rochester, where she studied physics, optics, and math. In addition to being a graduate student lead for the Spring Break for Research program, she is the current President of the Optical Society of America Student Chapter at CU Boulder and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. After being involved with youth outreach programs to increase interest in STEM, Stephanie wants to learn methods for retention in STEM, especially as education/career level increases.

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Arthur L.C. Antoine University of Colorado, Boulder

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Arthur L.C. Antoine obtained a BSc. degree in Civil Engineering from The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago in 2003 then moved on to practice his trade in the Caribbean engineering/construction industry. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2009 with a MSc. degree in Ocean Engineering and subsequently, he returned to the Caribbean region to continue his career and professional development. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Construction Engineering and Management at The University of Colorado at Boulder. His research interests are in the areas of procurement, project delivery, alternative contracting methods and the use of incentive/disincentive strategies to encourage early project completion. In addition, he appreciates every opportunity to guide young Engineers through mentor-ship and he values the chance for his own professional development by learning from those mentor-ship experiences. Arthur is also Co-President of the Caribbean Student Alliance of Boulder; an independent student organization at CU.

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Session Topics: 2. Inspiring undergraduate students to pursue graduate degrees/research 5. Graduate student recruitment 12. Potpourri

Effects of a One-Week Research Program on the Graduate School Pipeline and Graduate Student Professional Development

During a one-week school break in 2015 at a large, public engineering institution, 20 undergraduate students, paired with 20 graduate student mentors, conducted engineering research. The goal of this program was to increase retention in engineering as well as to increase the pipeline of students, particularly underrepresented students, interested in pursuing graduate degrees in engineering. All students were selected through an application process, and all students were paid a stipend.

In addition to conducting research, undergraduate students were required to attend professional development events, including seminars on research etiquette, future research opportunities and the graduate school application process.

All participants completed a pre and post survey and are being subsequently tracked for retention, academic performance, and other research activities. In the first year of this program the Spring Break for Research cohort was 45% female and 25% underrepresented minority students. This is more diverse than the College of Engineering population at this Institution, which is 24% female and 11.5% underrepresented minorities. The program was aimed at students who had no previous research experience. 60% of the cohort were first-year students, 20% were sophomores, and 20% were juniors.

Results showed that undergraduates who participated had a strong engineering identity and were interested in attending graduate school, but were uninformed about the financing and application process for graduate school. Thus, while undergraduates didn’t show significant changes in engineering identity, interest in research, or interest in graduate school before versus after the program, they expressed an increased understanding of the graduate school application process as well as increased knowledge about financing for graduate school. Continued tracking of students will indicate whether these students matriculate in an engineering graduate program. Additionally, 100% of undergraduates said this research program was a positive experience, 95% would recommend the program, and 90% said their graduate student mentor was a good match.

Results also showed that graduate students felt this opportunity prepared them for future employment. Many expressed enthusiasm at the opportunity to practice and hone mentorship skills. 100% of the graduate mentors indicated that they would or might keep in touch personally with their undergraduates and 80% said they would or might keep in touch about their research. The graduate students also expressed gratitude for the contributions and assistance to their research project which their mentees were able to provide.

This one-week research program increased access to research and graduate school for a diverse group of undergraduates and improved professional development skills for their graduate student mentors. Moving forward, this research program will be replicated and improved upon for a one-week school break during 2016.

Dunn, V., & Miller, S., & Swartz, S., & Antoine, A. L. (2016, June), Effects of a One-Week Research Program on the Graduate School Pipeline and Graduate Student Professional Development Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26913

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