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This paper summarizes the overall approach and assessment of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Site focused on sustainable civil and environmental infrastructure in rural areas. This site has hosted over 60 students over 5 years, including 1 year of virtual participation due to travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed discussion and results are provided with respect to the recruitment approach, including particular attention to first-generation college students, and the potential negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on first-generation applicants. This site also incorporates targeted instruction on technical writing, which occurs over several weeks throughout the first half of the summer and culminates with a final conference paper deliverable. This approach has yielded over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, or national conference presentations, which have been co-authored by the undergraduate student participants. External evaluation of this site has included both formative and summative assessments, including pre-program, mid-program, and post-program surveys and focus groups, which has enabled a successful continuous improvement cycle, in which cohort-building activities, technical writing deliverables, and mentor training have been gradually incorporated or enhanced. Results of this assessment have also been used to quantify the site’s success with respect to student exposure and interest in research and graduate education. In addition to most participants persisting in STEM fields, many have gone on to pursue graduate school in civil and environmental engineering and win national fellowships.
Wittich, C., & Bartelt-Hunt, S. (2022, August), Impacts of a Sustainability-Focused REU Site on Student Products and Career Trajectory for Underrepresented Groups in Engineering Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41989
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