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Evaluation of a First-Year Retention Project: Findings at Halftime

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.551.1 - 23.551.26



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Paper Authors


Alan D. Niemi LeTourneau University

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Alan D. Niemi is a professor and chair of Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology from Lake Superior State University and his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. He has taught courses in Electrical Engineering and Technology for 26 years. In addition to teaching, Mr. Niemi has spent seven years in industry designing digital and microcontroller systems.

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Matthew G. Green LeTourneau University

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Dr. Matthew G. Green is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at LeTourneau University-Longview. His objective is to practice and promote engineering as a serving profession. Dr. Green's areas of focus include remote power generation, design methods for frontier environments, enhanced engineering learning, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities.

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Melanie Roudkovski LeTourneau University

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Dr. Melanie Roudkovski has earned master's degrees in Marriage & Family Counseling as well as Theology, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Prior to her current position at Letourneau University, Dr. Roudkovski was a faculty member and director of Counseling at a state university in Alabama. As director of Counseling, she was responsible for coordinating retention efforts for all programs and coordinated necessary efforts and interventions to retain students in jeopardy of leaving the university. Additionally, Dr. Roudkovski has served on the Institutional Review Board at LeTourneau and regularly provides consultations for doctoral candidates seeking assistance with methodologies and statistical analyses involved in dissertation writing. She is also experienced in designing instruments used for assessing various situations and behaviors. Dr. Roudkovski has presented such personally designed instruments at numerous professional conferences.

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Evaluation of a First-Year Retention Project: Findings at HalftimeA decline in the annual retention and graduation rates of the engineering and engineeringtechnology program at a small, private university motivated an internal study (summer 2009) ofits underlying causes. Analyses of performance and predictor data, as well as surveys of theliterature and of non-retained students, produced several recommended actions based ondocumented best practices. The resulting 5-year retention project, funded by NSF-STEP, beganin August of 2010 and focuses on first-year retention initiatives, namely: a faculty mentoring program for first-year students; a peer mentoring program for first-year students; an industrial contact mentoring program for first-year students; exposure to engineering practice through two new freshman courses employing active- learning and multidisciplinary projects aimed at answering the question “What do engineers do?”During the first half of the project many assessment instruments have been developed anddeployed to help determine the effectiveness of the initiatives. These instruments include: a pre-and post-engineering survey to determine attitudes toward the engineering profession and program during their first semester; a survey of first-year students to determine the effectiveness of first-year interest groups and the mentors; both a survey and focus group for the peer mentors; a faculty mentor survey; industrial mentor survey.This paper will provide details of the retention initiatives employed, and then present qualitativeand quantitative assessment results of the project to date, with the intention of contributing ourexperiences and findings to the dialogue on retention initiatives. Assessment result details willbe included to help answer such questions as: “Of the three mentor types, which is the mostimportant?”, “Is it important that a peer mentor have the same major as the first-year student?”,and “Which student attitudes toward engineering are most easily changed?”

Niemi, A. D., & Green, M. G., & Roudkovski, M. (2013, June), Evaluation of a First-Year Retention Project: Findings at Halftime Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19565

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