Asee peer logo

Equity, Engineering, and Excellence: Pathways to Student Success

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Special Topics: Conscious Considerations

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Doris J. Espiritu Wilbur Wright College

visit author page

Doris J. Espiritu, PhD is the Executive Director of the College Center of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science and a professor of Chemistry at Wright College. Doris Espiritu is one of the first National Science Foundation’s research awardees under the Hispanic- Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. She pioneered Engineering at Wright and had grown the Engineering program enrollment by 700 % within two years of the NSF-HSI project. Doris founded six student chapters of national organizations including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and nine times Outstanding Chapter Awardee, the American Chemical Society-Wright College Chapter. Doris promotes collaboration between K-12 schools, other community colleges, 4-year institutions, non-profit organizations, and industries. Doris' current research is to design and implement practices that develop Community of Practice (CoP), Professional Identity, and Self-Efficacy to increase diversity in Engineering and Computer Science and to streamline transfer from community colleges to 4-year institutions.

visit author page


Bridget Eileen O'Connell Wilbur Wright College

visit author page

Bridget O’Connell is an Academic and Career Coordinator for the Engineering Program at City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College. She has a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and worked in engineering industry for thirteen years. She is committed to serving underrepresented students in their pursuit of engineering education.

visit author page


David Potash Wilbur Wright College

visit author page

David Potash has served as president of Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, since 2013. The first CAO at Curry College in Milton, MA, Potash was Associate Provost at Hunter College and Baruch College, CUNY. Trained as an historian, he holds a BA from Rice University, an MA from NYU, and PhD from Cambridge University. Potash is active with several professional organizations (including AAC&U, Campus Compact, Excelencia in Education, and HACU) and blogs regularly (

visit author page

Download Paper |


Wright College, an urban open-access community college, independently accredited within the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) system, is a federally recognized Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with one of the largest community college enrollments of Hispanic students in Illinois. Wright College’s student success rates measured by completion have been strong and improving relative to other national urban community colleges, but are below state and national averages.

In 2015 the college piloted a selective guaranteed admission program, Engineering Pathways (EP), to one of the nation’s top engineering schools (The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, UIUC). Initial results for the small first-year cohort were very positive: 89% transfer rate and all students who transferred to UIUC graduated. The program’s initial success rested on a) cohort model with a small number of students and strong controls; b) co-branding that attracted local students interested in pursuing engineering at UIUC who might not otherwise have enrolled at Wright; c) academic rigor (small class size with Wright College’s curricula matching UIUC); d) robust student support services and structures; and e) a holistic college commitment to equity and inclusive excellence.

Wright College obtained a National Foundation Science (NSF)-HSI research grant in 2018 to support the Engineering Pathways. The grant examines EP students’ self-efficacy and sense of belonging. Wright College foregrounds student “belonging” in its equity efforts. Equity work calls for the systemic analysis and tracking of student performance, engagement and participation throughout the student life-cycle, with data-informed analysis of behavior and outcomes through a lens of race, gender and wealth. EP students shared similar racial and ethnic backgrounds as Wright College’s non-engineering students. They attended the same elementary and public schools, have similar family structures, socioeconomic status (SES) and supports.

NSF resources assisted Wright College’s creation of a contextualized engineering summer bridge and a more structured pre-engineering program. As enrollment in the EP program increased, the college dedicated additional resources, including faculty, enhanced student support, and guaranteed junior-level transfer to other nearby baccalaureate engineering schools. Central to the effort was significantly greater structure and monitoring of student performance, including academic and support frameworks for non-EP students. Wright College and baccalaureate transfer institutions reviewed and updated articulation agreements. In the Engineering Summer Bridge Program’s first two years, forty-five (45) students who would otherwise have been denied admission to EP are thriving and are positioned to transfer to four-year engineering programs.

In this paper, Wright College will review the college’s equity efforts, the structure and implementation of the Engineering Pathways, and the creation of new engineering transfer programs. It will explore visible and invisible barriers to students’ success, contrasting students in Wright College’s EP program with other Wright College students. The authors argue that the systemic pursuit of equity, particularly with a focus on self-efficacy, belonging, and the creation of an environment committed to inclusive excellence, will result in very strong student outcomes.

Espiritu, D. J., & O'Connell, B. E., & Potash, D. (2021, July), Equity, Engineering, and Excellence: Pathways to Student Success Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37095

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: © 2021 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