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Freshman Peer Mentoring: Successful Continuous Improvement of the Transition Experience

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

Student Success & Development - Focus on Mentoring

Tagged Topics

Diversity and FYEE Division - Paper Submission

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Paper Authors


Kevin Joseph Lindsay University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Kevin J. Lindsay
Freshman Lecturer and Advisor; MAPS Program Director

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 1999
M.S. in Physics, Clemson University, 2003
MBA, Loyola University in Maryland, 2010

I came to UNC Charlotte's William States Lee College of Engineering from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. My 10 years of experience at STScI culminated in my final duties as a Senior Research and Instrument Analyst, and were spent working on astrophysics research, astronomical data analysis, and space-based instrumentation characterization, calibration, and experimentation. While at STScI I focused the majority of my efforts as a member of the development team for the Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA), as a member of the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) pipeline and calibration teams, and as a member of the Operations Detector Laboratory (ODL), where I worked on the characterization of spaced-based CCD detectors. Now at UNC Charlotte, I have found new passion in the education, advising, and mentoring of undergraduate engineering students.

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The MAPS (Maximizing Academic and Professional Success) program exists to increase the retention and academic performance of students who are committed to earning a degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s (UNC Charlotte) William States Lee College of Engineering. Although the MAPS program was originally developed and implemented through National Science Foundation (NSF) funding more than two decades ago, it is now fully funded by the University as a key component of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The MAPS program serves as indoctrination for engineering, engineering technology, and construction management students to learn, understand, and establish personal connections to academic success and professional development strategies, campus-wide resources, networking opportunities, and organizations.

The MAPS program structure is split into two peer-led components: (1) transition, academic, and professional development coaching for students pursuing a degree in the College of Engineering and (2) Supplemental Instruction (SI) for selected freshman gateway courses. This paper will focus exclusively on the coaching component of the MAPS program. The coaching program has evolved based on experiences and feedback from key stakeholders. For example, changes implemented over the past two years have addressed an increase in the number and diversity of program participants and coaches to avoid having to waitlist students. New strategies for improving participant satisfaction, academic and professional success, and retention were also developed in response to stakeholder feedback. This feedback suggested that the program structure and curriculum lacked certain elements necessary to connect and engage new students with the College of Engineering, the larger University community, and available resources.

Collectively, these enhancements have made a positive impact based on recent assessment results. Participation in MAPS coaching has increased 38% from 183 students in fall 2013 to 295 students in fall 2016. The semester GPA gap between active MAPS participants and non-participants increased from 0.47 in fall 2013 to 0.52 in fall 2016. The fall 2015 to fall 2016 College of Engineering one-year retention rate for active MAPS program participants was 88%, as compared to 65% for non-program participants. Participant satisfaction has continued to improve based on overwhelmingly positive student feedback. As participation in the coaching program is voluntary, the increased desire of participants to give back to the program by becoming MAPS coaches without any solicitation, is of particular interest.

Based on these indicators, continuous process and product improvements have allowed several enhancements, one of which is the addition of a new “Self-Directed Learning” coaching session, developed in collaboration with the University Library. Going forward, changes to the program will continue to be based on the needs and interests of student participants, with the expectation that they will continue to enrich and enhance their academic and professional experience.

This paper describes, based on both quantitative and qualitative measures, how by having adopted a philosophy of continuous improvement utilizing stakeholder insights and experiences, the MAPS program has steadily grown while improving upon measures of participant satisfaction, academic and professional success, and retention.

Lindsay, K. J. (2017, August), Freshman Peer Mentoring: Successful Continuous Improvement of the Transition Experience Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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