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Increasing Access to Undergraduate Research: Housing Student Research in the Engineering Diversity Office

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Cynthia Howard-Reed The Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Cindy Howard Reed is the Assistant Director for Student Research and Graduate Equity and an Assistant Teaching Professor in the College of Engineering at Penn State. She has a MS in Environmental Health Engineering and PhD in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and received her BS in Civil Engineering from North Carolina State University. Prior to her position at Penn State, Dr. Reed conducted research in the field of indoor air quality at the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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Erin A Hostetler Pennsylvania State University

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Erin Hostetler is the Director for Student Research and Graduate Equity. Erin specializes in administering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, with a focus on increasing access to research and ensuring a standard and equitable experience for REU participants. Erin is a liaison for partnerships with the graduate school, STEM-colleges, commonwealth campuses for recruitment of undergrad and grad researchers. As Director, Erin manages and coordinates recruitment efforts for engineering graduate students from marginalized and/or underrepresented populations on behalf of the college of engineering with internal and external organizations and stakeholders. An alum of Penn State, Erin has been with the College of Engineering for five years, and a staff member at Penn State for 16 years.

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Research shows groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering (e.g., underrepresented minorities, women, veterans, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation college students) are less likely to pursue undergraduate research opportunities. As a result, these students are also less likely to enter the pipeline for graduate school. One barrier for students to trying research is the lack of access to these programs. Many students are unaware that the programs exist or the benefits of participating. To heighten the visibility of research opportunities in a State University’s College of Engineering, the unit that focuses on undergraduate research experiences is located in the College’s Diversity Office. This non-traditional organizational structure places the research program in the same space as the other student retention programs dedicated to women, multicultural students, and transitioning students. The association gives the undergraduate research programs an intentionality and sensitivity to issues around diversity, and it gives all students in the College of Engineering visible access to the services facilitated by the Office. In addition, the Office is well-positioned to promote undergraduate research programs to targeted populations, especially centrally-funded opportunities. Preliminary evidence has indicated a positive effect on the number of underrepresented student participants, retention and graduation rates, as well as enrollment in graduate school.

Howard-Reed, C., & Hostetler, E. A. (2021, July), Increasing Access to Undergraduate Research: Housing Student Research in the Engineering Diversity Office Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37326

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