Asee peer logo

Instituting a Community-Based STEM Program at Drexel University's College of Engineering: Understanding Factors That Determine the Success of University-Community Partnerships

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Learning Through Service

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.974.1 - 26.974.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Alistar Erickson-Ludwig Drexel University (Eng. & Eng. Tech.)

visit author page

Ms. Alistar Erickson-Ludwig serves as the STEM Program Coordinator in the College of Engineering at Drexel University. She focuses on outreach and education programs for current undergraduates, k-12 students, and the community. She concentrates on the Greater Philadelphia Seaperch Underwater Robotics Competition, Summer Diversity Program, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, and Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) at Drexel, among others. In collaboration with other College of Engineering faculty and staff she co-teaches a sequence of classes for the Paul Peck Scholars Program. Alistar received her B.A. from Drew University and Master’s from Duke University.

visit author page


Sherry Levin Drexel University (Eng. & Eng. Tech.)

visit author page

Sherry Levin, Associate Director of Graduate Programs and Research,
provides vision and leadership to the design, organization, development and implementation of graduate programs for the College of Engineering. Sherry is responsible for promoting the capabilities, recommending research areas, developing proposals and conducting strategic analysis to inform research teams. Sherry has been with the College of Engineering for three years. She holds an MBA with Global Focus and an M.A. in Political Science. She has over 10 years of experience in higher education developing graduate, international and community programs. Sherry is the co-lead for EPICS programs at Drexel University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Community Partners in STEM EducationProgram OverviewThe Community Partners in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)Education program is an engineering design program where faculty led student groups worktogether to solve real world challenges presented by a community partner. The CommunityPartners in STEM Education Program is a way to provide students with professional skills andvolunteer opportunities, provide faculty with an bridge to link their academic expertise with civicengagement, promote improved perception of the University as part of the community, and equipcommunity partners with support on STEM initiatives. The community surrounding theUniversity is urban, underserved and culturally diverse. Community partners within a shortdistance of the University include small community based organizations (CBOs) working toserve the immediate community as well as large established informal learning institutions thatserve the city and region. It is in this context that projects and partners were identified. Therichness of the community truly had an impact on the formation and design of activities andscope bringing to mind the phrase, Think globally, act locally.ParticipantsEach project involves three participant groups: students, faculty, and a community organization.By embedding this program in already established student programs (senior and freshmandesign) we were able to offer this project option to students from a wide range of engineeringdisciplines. In our pilot year (AY 13-14), 38 students (20 male, 18 female) in groups of 4 to 5participated in eight projects. Most of the faculty who volunteered to lead these projects alreadyparticipate in service learning and other community or volunteer programs. Communityorganizations within 3 miles of the University were initially chosen as participants. Theyincluded small CBOs and well established informal learning institutions (i.e. museums, zoos,environmental centers) all of which have recently expanded their strategic plan to include STEMinitiatives, and better integration with the local community.OutcomesQualitative and quantitative data are used to understand and measure the value of this programfrom a student, faculty, and community partner perspective. The initial goal following the modelincluded enhancing the student experience and catalyzing classroom knowledge. This ismeasured through a survey distributed to all students and data collected supported thisassertion. For civic-minded faculty, there was appreciation for support identifying organizations,projects, and resources to help them engage in projects of interest. With larger informal learninginstitutions there was the identification of research projects, living lab opportunities, and a desireto collaborate on displays demonstrating engineering and STEM concepts. Smaller CBOs had aclear need for technical help with an engineering challenge. Lastly, all of our partners expandedtheir understanding of what engineers do and the multiple facets of the engineering discipline.ConclusionThis innovative program supports the University’s strategic plan to improve the studentexperience, involve the community, and build the STEM pipeline. Community service and civicengagement are a major component of the University’s strategic plan. This project is just oneSTEM framework that universities and STEM organizations can use to enhance communityinteraction. The implantation of this model and its adaptation locally has shown that the impactcan be greater when community assets are linked and leveraged to work together.

Erickson-Ludwig, A., & Levin, S. (2015, June), Instituting a Community-Based STEM Program at Drexel University's College of Engineering: Understanding Factors That Determine the Success of University-Community Partnerships Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24311

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015