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Experiences in Establishing an Outreach Program for Attracting and Retaining Minorities to Engineering

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Developing Quality Experiences that Retain Diverse Engineering Talent

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Rocio Alba-Flores Georgia Southern University

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Rocio Alba-Flores received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Georgia Southern University. Her main areas of interest include control systems, robotics, digital systems, microprocessors, signal and image processing, and engineerign education.

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Fernando Rios-Gutierrez Georgia Southern University

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Fernando Rios-Gutierrez was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Communications from the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico City, in 1978. He was awarded a full scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department of Tulane University, New Orleans LA, where he obtained a M.S. degree and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1998 and 2000 respectively. From 2002 -2007 he was an Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of the University of Minnesota Duluth. Since September 2007 he has been an Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering department at Georgia Southern University. His main research interests include robotics, remote sensing, learning techniques for robots, digital systems, and microprocessor applications.

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Experiences in establishing an outreach program for attracting and retaining minorities to engineering


Since the creation of the Electrical Engineering (EE) program in our University in 2011, the student population has been steadily increasing at about 15% per year. However, although the overall student population has increased, the enrollment of minorities (female, Hispanic and African American students) has not increased at the same rate, even though our university is located in a rural area with high African American and Hispanic population. This paper present the experience in our department on how we have been implementing an outreach program to improve retention rates of our female and minority engineering students, as well as efforts in collaborating with local K-12 schools for attracting students to STEM areas, and in particular to engineering.

Research suggests that effective methods of attracting and retaining female and minorities in engineering include generating interest among younger students and providing outreach and support in engineering programs. Generating interest among younger students include hands-on activities that encourage innovation, invention and creativity for science, technology, engineering and math. Outreach methods include mentoring, professional development activities, and providing role models that increase feelings of inclusion among female and minorities engineering students.

In particular in our school, outreach efforts for attracting and retaining female and minority students have included the following activities.

1- Outreach to K-12 students through the engineering student chapters (SWE, NSBE, IEEE). - Engineering students, mainly female and minority, visit after-school programs, once a month, to encourage invention and creativity with STEM hands-on activities for the children. - Engineering students, through SWE, NSBE, and IEEE are also in charge of the engineering booth in the STEM and Art festivals that takes place twice a year in our campus. In this event, K-12 children and their parent visit our campus to learn about STEM fields through hands-on activities that promote creativity in the children, and stress the importance of math and physics.

2- Outreach to our engineering students. - Residential grouping of first-year female engineering students (learning and living community). First-year female engineering students live in a residential area reserved for engineering students that provides weekly activities for engineering freshmen. Activities include motivational presentations from professional engineers (primarily female and minorities) from industries in the region; workshops for resume development, and co-ops and internship opportunities; social gathering with engineering faculty. - Professional development activities, including filed trips to industries, and invited engineers that present about the actual work that engineers do in the real world. - Providing strong support for female and minority engineering students to find co-ops and internships

The paper describes the faculty efforts and early results in establishing the outreach program, the particulars of the implementation, how the activities has evolved and the initial improvement in student retention. We also present the methods, mechanisms, and lessons learned during the process and how they can be helpful to others contemplating similar activities, or those anticipating the creation of a new engineering program.

Alba-Flores, R., & Rios-Gutierrez, F. (2016, June), Experiences in Establishing an Outreach Program for Attracting and Retaining Minorities to Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26813

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