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Investigating Influences of the MESA Program upon Underrepresented Students

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Developing Young MINDS in Engineering: Part I

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.972.1 - 22.972.10



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Paper Authors


Christine E. Hailey Utah State University

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Christine E. Hailey is a Senior Associate Dean in the College of Engineering at Utah State University. She is the Principal Investigator on a recently funded NSF study to better understand the influence MESA activities have on the engineering self-efficacy, interest, and perception of underrepresented students.

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Chandra Y. Austin Auburn University

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Cameron Denson North Carolina State University


Daniel L. Householder Utah State University

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Daniel L. Householder is a Research Professor at Utah State University and Co-PI of the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education.

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Investigating Influences the MESA Program Has on Underrepresented StudentsTopic: New research and trends related to underrepresented minorities in engineeringThe Mathematics, Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program supports educationallydisadvantaged students and minority students by providing pathways to help them succeed in science,mathematics and engineering. MESA goals are to “1) increase the number of engineers, scientists,mathematicians, and related professionals at technical and management levels, and 2) serve as a drivingforce in encouraging minorities and females in achieving success in these fields.” MESA programs arebased on a common co-curricular academic enrichment model that includes academic planning,community service, family involvement, academic enrichment, hands-on engineering activities, careeradvising, field trips, competitions and workshops. MESA programs represent an innovative way oflinking a co-curricular learning environment to mathematics, engineering and science programs withinthe formal public school setting to enhance STEM education of students.In early 2000, a research team lead by William Tierney studied the California MESA program as part ofan effort to determine effective elements of outreach programs. We propose to describe a three yearprogram to investigate the influence of MESA activities on underrepresented students that was recentlyfunded by the National Science Foundation. Our investigation complements the work of Tierney, et identifying student-oriented activities within the MESA program that have an influence onunderrepresented students’ engineering self-efficacy, interest in engineering and perceptions ofengineering. The study is being conducted in three MESA USA states: California, Maryland and Utah.The following research questions guide this study: 1. What influences do MESA activities have on students’ engineering self-efficacy? 2. What influences do MESA activities have on students’ interest in engineering? 3. How are the students’ perceptions of engineering influenced by their participation in MESA activities?The study examines student-oriented activities which can be categorized into five distinct groups: a)field trips, b) guest lecturers, c) design competitions, d) hands-on activities, and e) student advisement.Members of the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE), a Center forLearning and Teaching funded by the National Science Foundation, developed a foundation foranswering the research questions. A preliminary draft of a survey instrument was developed and asample of 175 high school students completed the survey instrument at seven MESA sites in Californiaand Utah during spring 2010. Two focus groups provided necessary follow-up to probe the influence ofthe most promising activities in terms of outcomes: self-efficacy, interest, and perception.The proposed paper will present an overview of the NCETE work and then describe follow-oninvestigations to answer the research questions. In particular, the paper will present the results ofadditional focus groups with former MESA students now majoring in engineering to better understandthe types of MESA activities that were particularly influential in their career choice. Also presented willbe the results of interviews results from MESA advisors to determine which MESA activities theyconsidered most important.

Hailey, C. E., & Austin, C. Y., & Denson, C., & Householder, D. L. (2011, June), Investigating Influences of the MESA Program upon Underrepresented Students Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18199

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