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Enhancing Graduation Rates through High Impact Activities: Experiential Learning, Engagement, Mentoring, and Scholarships

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Comparing Different Aspects of the Cooperative Education Experience

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.618.1 - 22.618.9



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Paper Authors


Paul D. Plotkowski Grand Valley State University

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Paul Plotkowski is the Dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing at Grand Valley State University. Extensively involved in experiential education, he is the recipient of the ASEE - CEED Service Award and is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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Jann Joseph Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Jann Joseph is the Associate Dean for Professional Development and Administration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). She works closely with the professional colleges at GVSU to support student success as they move through the general education courses and into the professional programs. She is the PI of a NSF-STEM award to provide scholarships and high impact practices, like faculty mentoring and undergraduate experiences, that have increased student retention, graduation rates, and admission to graduate schools.

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ENHANCING GRADUATION RATES THROUGH HIGH IMPACT ACTIVITIES EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING, ENGAGEMENT, MENTORING AND SCHOLARSHIPSOver the past several years, our midwestern university which is classified as “Master’s – Large”has developed and clearly articulated a model for student success. This effort has resulted in sixyear graduation rates increasing from just under 50% in 2005 to 61% in 2010.Central to the student success model has been the blueprint for success that uses “high impactexperiences” and educational landmarks as a central theme. Among the high impact experiencesare experiential learning: cooperative education and internships, and engagement with facultythrough research and mentoring.The university has a strong history of experiential learning with 45 – 48% of juniors and seniorstypically enrolled in credit bearing experiential learning in any given year. Many degreeprograms including engineering and computer science have experiential learning as requiredelements for all students. Since introducing the blueprint for success that clearly identifiesexperiential learning as a significant educational landmark, participation has jumped to 52 – 56%with impressive corresponding jumps in graduation rates.In addition to their involvement in experiential learning programs, for the last four years theauthors have also been the team leaders in an NSF funded S-STEM program. This programprovides mentoring and scholarship support for students with high financial need during the finaltwo years of their studies in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. The program involvesfrequent mentoring by faculty, engaging students in faculty scholarly activities, and scholarshipsupport. These elements combine to reduce the likelihood that students will decrease theircourse loads, work too many jobs, or even “step out” to earn sufficient funds to finish theireducation. The results of this program have been remarkable, with nearly 100% of these “atrisk” students finishing their degrees in a timely manner.Even in these times of financial constraints, these programs are highly replicable at otherinstitutions. This paper will discuss the Student Success Model, Blueprint for Success, the roleof Experiential Learning as a clearly articulated and essential educational component, and thekey elements of the S-STEM program.

Plotkowski, P. D., & Joseph, J. (2011, June), Enhancing Graduation Rates through High Impact Activities: Experiential Learning, Engagement, Mentoring, and Scholarships Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17899

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