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Increasing Success and Retention in Engineering and other STEM Fields

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Best Practices for Two-Year Students Majoring in Engineering & STEM Fields

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.949.1 - 26.949.23



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Paper Authors


Karen M. Groppi P.E. Cabrillo College

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Karen Groppi is an Engineering Instructor at Cabrillo College and California registered Civil Engineer whose work focuses on teaching and mentoring students through hands-on projects which benefit the campus community. She was co-PI on a five year NSF grant for recruiting and retaining students in STEM fields.

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Susan Tappero Cabrillo College Orcid 16x16

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Susan Tappero obtained a Ph.D. in pure mathematics from University of California, Santa Cruz in 1992. She has been teaching mathematics and developing curriculum to support students in math-based careers at the community college level for nearly 20 years. She has been Co-PI and PI on NSF grants that seek to increase the numbers of professionals in STEM with focused recruitments on the underrepresented minority populations.

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Increasing Success and Retention in Engineering and other STEM FieldsTo increase the number of students making progress toward STEM degrees, a partnership amongmathematics and engineering faculty produced some innovative STEM models directed towardthe recruitment, retention and persistence of community college students with a focus onparticipation from underrepresented minorities in science and engineering disciplines. Sustainability and energy issues form a theme in the recruitment activity and some of theretention activities. Common threads in all the models that were developed, delivered andinstitutionalized are; 1.) building cohorts and learning communities, 2.) use of hands-on projects,3.) use of peer mentors and, 4.) service learning. Special emphasis is placed on initiatives that arereadily transferable across various institutional types.Students originating at community colleges make up a significant percentage of STEMgraduates. According to the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Indicators2012, almost 20 percent of US residents who were awarded science and engineering doctoraldegrees and 46 percent who graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in science andengineering in recent years earned credits at a community or two-year college.This session will focus on interventions that were originally funded by NSF under the STEMTalent Expansion Program (STEP). These are; 1.) a Summer Energy Academy to interest andengage students in the study of engineering and other STEM disciplines; 2.) a PrecalculusReadiness and Excellence program (PREP) for committed STEM majors at risk of changingmajors due to unsuccessful attempts of gateway math courses; 3.) an on-campus internshipprogram; and 4.) a vibrant learning space which provides a supportive community and environment most conducive to student retention and successful transfer in STEM majors.Details of these successful programs and the effect of these practices on underrepresented andunderprepared students will be discussed. Effective and reproducible models and strategies inand out of the classroom for advancing students to transfer will be the focus.Pedagogies employed include: enhancing engagement with themed contextualized learning related community service, project-based learning hands-on activities and exploration peer based learning use of more advanced students as teaching assistants and mentorsData collected show increased success rates for program participants using multiple measures.Comparison groups were used to measure the effects of interventions more closely. Campuseffects include an increased STEM awareness and participation in general, with a more thanthree-fold increase in the number of underrepresented groups pursuing STEM majors over thesix year course of the grant. Recruiting efforts resulted in over 45% of participating studentswith undeclared majors changed to STEM majors after the interventions. Retention, persistence and success rates all increased significantly. The greatest increase in bothGPA and the success rates in precalculus occurred among the female Hispanic students, whocomprised approximately 1/4th of the participants. Outcomes suggest that there was success inidentifying and addressing barriers to underlying causes for lack of participation of females andunderrepresented groups. Precalculus Success Rates: PREP vs Non-PREP students via Gender and Ethnicity Completion Enrollment Completion Success Success Rate Rate Count Count Count College Total: Fall 2011-Spring 2013 52.64% 70.88% 625 443 329 PREP Total 63.38% 80.28% 71 57 45 Female Total 68.97% 82.76% 29 24 20 Hispanic 71.43% 85.71% 14 12 10 White Non-Hispanic 66.67% 80.00% 15 12 10 Male Total 59.52% 78.57% 42 33 25 Hispanic 50.00% 72.73% 22 16 11 White Non-Hispanic 70.00% 85.00% 20 17 14 NOT PREP Total 51.26% 69.68% 554 386 284 Female Total 52.13% 63.98% 211 135 110 Hispanic 45.21% 61.64% 73 45 33 White Non-Hispanic 55.80% 65.22% 138 90 77 Male Total 50.88% 73.39% 342 251 174 Hispanic 43.48% 71.30% 115 82 50 White Non-Hispanic 54.63% 74.45% 227 169 124

Groppi, K. M., & Tappero, S. (2015, June), Increasing Success and Retention in Engineering and other STEM Fields Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24286

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