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Enhancing Undergraduate Civil Engineering Opportunities for Minority, Female, and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Enhancing the Underrepresented Student Experience

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.530.1 - 24.530.13



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Paper Authors


William J. Davis P.E. The Citadel Orcid 16x16

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William J. Davis is a professor in civil and environmental engineering at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and is a registered professional engineer. His research interests focus on transportation infrastructure planning and design, highway safety, and active living by design. Courses he teaches include transportation engineering, geographic information systems, pavement design, and engineering management. He has served on numerous technical committees for ASCE, TRB, ITE and ASEE.

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Kevin C. Bower PE The Citadel

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Dr. Kevin Bower is an associate professor of and department head of civil and environmental engineering at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He recently received the ASEE Environmental Engineering Meritorious Service Award and was the 2011 Harry C. Saxe teaching award recipient for outstanding undergraduate engineering teaching at The Citadel. Dr. Bower’s teaching and research interests are in improving active-learning environments, recruiting and retaining underrepresented populations to civil engineering, and the development of classroom pedagogy to improve moral and ethical development in engineering students.

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Ronald W. Welch The Citadel

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Ron Welch, P.E., received his B.S. degree in engineering mechanics from the United States Military Academy in1982 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1990 and 1999, respectively. He became the dean of engineering at The Citadel on July 1, 2011 after heading the department of civil engineering at the University of Texas, Tyler from January 2007 to June 2011. He served in the Corps of Engineers for over 24 years, including 11 years on the faculty at the United States Military Academy.

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Elizabeth Connor The Citadel

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Elizabeth Connor, MLS, DM/AHIP, is a professor of library science and STEM liaison at the Daniel Library of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina in Charleston. Research interests relate to how scientists develop habits of mind and how case studies can be used to engage and sustain learning.

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Enhancing Undergraduate Civil Engineering Opportunities for Minority, Female, and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students in South CarolinaIn South Carolina, 16.4 percent of SC residents live below the poverty level and SC isconsiderably worse than the national US average of 13.8 percent (US Census Bureau,2010). During the 2008-2009 academic year, 7.3 percent (n=57) of SC engineeringbachelor degrees (n= 771) were awarded to African American students. During the sameperiod, 3.0 percent (n=4) of SC civil engineering bachelor degrees (n= 133) wereawarded to African American students (American Society for Engineering Education,2010). In 2008, African Americans comprised 28.5 percent of South Carolina’spopulation (US Census Bureau, 2010) and are extremely underrepresented in the state’sengineering programs.During the 2008-2009 academic year, 16.5 percent (n=127) of South Carolinaengineering bachelor degrees (n= 771) were awarded to female students attendingcolleges and universities in the state. During the same period, 11.3 percent (n=15) of SCcivil engineering bachelor degrees (n= 133) were awarded to female students (AmericanSociety for Engineering Education, 2010).South Carolina statistics are below the national average indicating that minority andfemale students are underrepresented in the state’s engineering undergraduate programs.Through the support of the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM program, a studentscholarship and enhancement program has been developed to begin to address theseissues. The program awards qualified students, within target demographic groups, withscholarship funds needed to obtain a civil engineering degree and, equally as important,provides a variety of additional support services designed to improve retention anddevelop principled leaders. Program services include: • Participation in student learning communities • Professional mentoring from practicing engineers • Civil engineering community service projects • Enrollment in a summer college transition program leading into the freshman year • Academic benefits from interaction with a learning coach • Professional leadership seminarsThis paper presents the process used to develop new and enhance existing programs,outlines the research plan for a longitudinal study focusing on cognitive and professionaldevelopment of student participants, presents initial data regarding statewide recruitmentand freshman retention, and presents initial results and resulting study adjustments. Theformation of important and productive partnerships with a variety of stakeholders neededto create a successful program organizational structure are discussed, as well asadministrative and institutional hurdles that had to be cleared to establish this studentscholarship and enhancement program.

Davis, W. J., & Bower, K. C., & Welch, R. W., & Connor, E. (2014, June), Enhancing Undergraduate Civil Engineering Opportunities for Minority, Female, and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20422

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