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Improving Academic Performance of First-Generation Students: A Case Study of Mentoring Program

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

ETD - Technical Session 7 - ET Pedagogy I

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Paper Authors


Michael Johnson Texas A&M University

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Dr. Michael D. Johnson is a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Inclusion and Faculty Success in the College of Engineering. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M, he was a senior product development engineer at the 3M Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University. Dr. Johnson received his S.M. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on engineering education, production economics, and design tools. Dr. Johnson has over 80 peer reviewed publications and several patents. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and industry.

Dr. Johnson is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, SME, and a senior member of IEEE. He served as the president of the Tau Alpha Pi Engineering Technology Honor Society national board from 2014-2018. He is past chair of the Mechanical Engineering Technology Leadership Committee. He is also a member of the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. Dr. Johnson has won several departmental and college-level awards for teaching, research, and service. He is also an ASEE National Engineering Technology Teaching Award and Fredrick J. Berger Award winner.

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Bimal Nepal Texas A&M University

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Dr Bimal Nepal is Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University. His research interests are in manufacturing, distribution, supply chain management, and engineering education.

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Shubham Torvi Texas A&M University

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A first-generation student is defined as someone whose parents do not have a 4-year degree. Since their parents did not have any experience in how to navigate college academic and social arenas, first generation students are faced with many challenges including maintaining identity, academic persistence, and a balanced social life. Further, research shows that these students tend to come from lower family income bracket, lack sufficient academic preparation specially for a major like engineering or other STEM majors and tend to work more to cover the expenses as well as to support their families. Furthermore, first generation students also face challenges with respect to “social capital” as they do not come with an established social network that they can lean on when they need support. Similarly, research suggests these students also lack the “cultural capital”, which refers to an experiential gap in their parents compared to those whose parents have academic qualifications and experience that they share with their children. While several intervention methods can be found in higher education literature to improve the academic and social experience of first-generation students, mentoring and summer bridge programs are two key methods that are widely adopted.

This paper presents a case study of a first-generation engineering (FGEn) student mentoring program at XXX university. The program currently focuses on first year students in the college of engineering. The XXX University has a common first year program for all engineering and engineering technology majors. The FGEn program was established in 2017 and has been providing mentoring services to about 150 to 160 freshmen every year. The mentor pool consists of both engineering faculty/staff and peer mentors. Unlike many first-generation student programs, the FGEn program is a one-on-one mentoring and does not provide any financial assistance to mentees. However, the program offers a variety of programs during the academic years that help engage the students. Academic performance of the FGEn students and their social experience over the last three years are presented in the paper. The results suggest that the FGEn mentoring program has demonstrably improved the academic performance and generally provided a positive social experience for the students. Lastly, the paper also provides a brief discussion of the findings of a survey of first-generation students at XXX University with respect to the challenges they face in maneuvering their academic and social lives as a university student.

Johnson, M., & Nepal, B., & Torvi, S. (2022, August), Improving Academic Performance of First-Generation Students: A Case Study of Mentoring Program Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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