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ELCIR – Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research: A research and global experience program supporting first generation low incoming underrepresented minority students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Sonia Jacqueline Garcia Texas A&M University

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Dr. Sonia Garcia is the Senior Director for the Access and Inclusion Program in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. She joined the college in 2014. In this role, Garcia is responsible for the initiation, development, management, evaluation, and promotion of research informed and strategic comprehensive activities and programs for the recruitment and success of historically underrepresented minority students and under-served communities in engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Through pre-college efforts such as summer camps, visitation days, Garcia has directed programs that offer hands-on engineering experiences to high school students who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. Many of these students have since decided to pursue a degree in engineering at Texas A&M, and Garcia continues to work with them to ensure their success.

Garcia also directs community-building and peer-mentorship programs for undergraduate and graduate students, giving underrepresented students the opportunity to build confidence and camaraderie. These programs include the Engineering Success Program, established to provide academic support to first-generation underrepresented college students, and the Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research Program, a high impact learning and research opportunity that offers freshmen underrepresented engineering students a chance to partake in a one-credit class and research project while gaining global experience with a research trip to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Garcia also leads efforts directing and coordinating the Engineering Summer Bridge Program, which gives first-generation students a head start on engineering and math courses before their first semester begins.

Before joining the College of Engineering, Garcia served as program coordinator then promoted to assistant director of outreach and diversity at Mays Business School at Texas A&M. She later served as director of recruitment in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M. In both capacities, she created, managed and developed projects and programs to enhance the presence of underserved underrepresented students in science and in business to enhance their academic experiences.

She has received many awards throughout her professional career, including an Outstanding Staff award from the Mays Business School in 2005, the 2008 President’s Award for Academic Advising, the 2011 Latino American Who’s Who for her achievements in advancing the culture of the Latino American business community, and the 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Achievement Award in the College of Geosciences for her work on increasing diversity in STEM.

Garcia received her B.S. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, her M.S. in Human Development from the University of Rhode Island, and her Ph.D. in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University. She speaks Spanish, English and Italian fluently, and is well-versed in French.

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Maria Claudia Alves Texas A&M University

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Maria Claudia Alves
Director for the Halliburton Engineering Global Programs at Texas A&M University

Dr. Maria C. Alves is the Director for the Halliburton Engineering Global Programs at Texas A&M University . She has been in this position since July 2012. In this position she is responsible for internationalizing the research and education activities of the Dwight Look College of Engineering. Under her leadership the college has significantly increased the number of students studying abroad, established new models of study abroad including co-op and research abroad and established meaningful connection for research and attraction of funded international graduate students. Maria started working at Texas A&M in 2005 as Assistant Director for Latin American Programs and in 2009 she was promoted to Program Manager for South America in the same office. During her time at the Office for Latin America Programs she created, managed and developed projects to enhance the presence of Texas A&M University in Latin American and to support in the internationalization of the education, research, and outreach projects of the university. She was charged with the development and implementation of a strategic plan for Texas A&M in South America. While at the Office for Latin America Programs, Maria was also responsible for the opening of the Soltis Center in Costa Rica. Maria speaks three languages fluently (Spanish, Portuguese and English) as well as intermediate French. Maria is originally from Brazil and completed her undergraduate studies at Lynn University in Florida, where she graduated with honors in Business Administration in 2002. She was part of the tennis team and was the team captain for two years, including the year the team was NCAA National Champion in 2001. She is a December 2003 graduate of the MS-Marketing program at Texas A&M University. And in March 2017, Maria defended and passed her PhD in Higher Education Administration with focus on Global Engineering Education

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Matthew Pariyothorn University of Houston

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Matthew Pariyothorn is currently Director of Academic Programs in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Houston (UH). He manages undergraduate and graduate academic operations encompassing outreach, recruitment, admissions, advising, curriculum development, student success and enrichment, as well as alumni and industry partnerships.

Prior to joining UH, Matthew was Acting Director and Senior Program Specialist for Graduate Programs in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) from 2009-2016. In his role he encouraged undergraduates to pursue graduate education and promoted engineering graduate degree programs at local, state, and national recruiting events. He also managed summer research experiences for high-achieving undergraduates (USRG and NSF-REU) and high school math and science teachers (NSF-RET). While at TAMU, Matthew also managed graduate academic affairs and advising in the college. In addition to recruitment, academic affairs, and program coordination, Matthew was involved with student affairs. He served as university adviser to the Philippine Student Association (PhilSA), Beta Tau Omega (BTO), an Asian-interest fraternity, and the Society for Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE).

Matthew completed a B.S. in psychology (industrial/organizational emphasis), M.S. in management (human resource management emphasis) from the Mays Business School, and has completed some doctoral coursework in Human Resource Development, all from Texas A&M University. His research and professional interests include mentoring relationships, career development, graduate school recruitment, undergraduate research experiences, and higher education and employment law.

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Ahmarlay Myint M.S. Access and Inclusion

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Ahmarlay Myint is a doctoral student in school psychology whose research interests include English learners and first generation college students.

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Alexandra K. Hardman Texas A&M University Access and Inclusion

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Alexandra Hardman is a school psychology doctoral student with research interests in teacher multicultural competence.

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The study conducted by three researchers with the Center for International Business Education and Research found that almost 40% of U.S. companies surveyed missed international business opportunities because of a lack of internationally competent personnel. Given that 95% of consumers live outside of the United States it is important for students to gain international experience (Daniel, Xie, & Kedia, 2014). With those numbers in mind, the National Academy of Engineering states that a core need for engineers is to be able to work with a diverse, multinational, multidisciplinary workforce. Therefore, engineering colleges must develop strategies that provide global perspectives and international experiences to help their graduates excel in this new world order (Borri, Guberti, & Melsa, 2007).

Research abroad, internship abroad, and study abroad, are some of the ways universities have found to provide a global perspective to students. However not all of the students can afford to have a study/research abroad experience, especially first generation, low income, minority students.

To increase the number of students participating in research and studying abroad - more specifically low-income, first generation underrepresented minority students, the college of engineering of a large land-grant university from the South partnered with the Office for Higher Education of one of the states in Mexico and launched in 2015 the first year of the Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research for Regents’ Scholars. For the first year of the program, seventeen low-income, underrepresented minority and first generation students were selected. For the second year of the program, 48 low incoming, underrepresented minority first generation were selected.

This program had three goals: (1) to expose raising sophomore students early on in their careers to research, (2) to immerse students in cultural and global research setting to maximize retention in engineering, and (3) to start to develop on students a global mindset and global competencies. The program started with a 2 weeks trip to Yucatan where students took an introduction to research course and visited research sites. After that, the program continued with an online learning community where students were guided on how to write a research proposal. The program was concluded with a poster session where students presented their research proposal to a group of faculty members, peer students and administrators of the college of engineering.

This paper presents how the program was implemented, the outcomes of the program and the impact on the students based on the analyses of a pre and two post surveys. The focus of this paper is on the retention as a result of this program.

Garcia, S. J., & Alves , M. C., & Pariyothorn, M., & Myint, A., & Hardman, A. K. (2017, June), ELCIR – Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research: A research and global experience program supporting first generation low incoming underrepresented minority students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28209

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015