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Learning From Our Minority Engineering Students: Improving Retention

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.426.1 - 5.426.10



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Paper Authors

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Mary Ann McCartney

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Maria A. Reyes

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Mary Anderson-Rowland

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2470

Learning from our Minority Engineering Students: Improving Retention

Maria A. Reyes, Mary R. Anderson-Rowland, Mary Ann McCartney Arizona State University


Since the summer of 1996, the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) at Arizona State University (ASU) has directed an MEP Summer Bridge Program for students entering the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) in the fall semester. Participating students compete in teams for scholarships as they learn how to cope with the difficult introduction to engineering course. A requirement for the scholarship is attendance in the fall Academic Excellence class (2- semester hours credit). Approximately 40 students have attended the bridge program each year and their one-year retention is significantly higher than the retention of minority students who do not attend the bridge program or of non-minority engineering students.

Focus groups were held with a sample of these bridge students to understand factors that have helped in their retention and also to identify factors that made retention difficult. The students related the reasons why they attended the bridge program, how the program helped them decide to major in engineering at ASU, how the bridge program affected their start as a freshman, and how the Academic Excellence class assisted them in remaining as a student in engineering. The students also related situations that made matriculation as an engineering student difficult. Some of the information received from these students has produced changes in the academic system to increase retention of underrepresented minority students.

The paper gives additional insights as to how minority engineering students fare in academia and how this information can be used to improve their retention and the academic system in which they are immersed.

I. Introduction

There is an absolute need for diversity in engineering. For some time, the recruitment of underrepresented minority students to engineering has been recognized as the right or fair thing to do. To not include women and underrepresented minorities in engineering is a waste of brainpower. However, in the last several years, industry has realized that a diverse engineering workforce is a necessity. A diverse team of engineers will come to a better solution than a team that thinks and acts alike. More women and minority engineers are needed in order to meet the demands for a larger engineering workforce. A diverse engineering workforce is needed for the global market that includes customers from around the world, as well as industry plants located off shore. Additionally, providing a supportive environment for diversity is good business: all employees benefit.

McCartney, M. A., & Reyes, M. A., & Anderson-Rowland, M. (2000, June), Learning From Our Minority Engineering Students: Improving Retention Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8536

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