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Lights, Camera, Action! Increasing First-Year Engineering Student Academic Performance via an Innovative Pre-Orientation Program

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

New Approaches in Engineering

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.868.1 - 23.868.10



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Paper Authors


Karen T. Marosi Bucknell University

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Dr. Karen T. Marosi is an Associate Dean of Engineering at Bucknell University. She holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. As Associate Dean, she has worked to enhance the academic success of students in the College of Engineering especially those who come from under-represented groups in engineering.

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Barbra Steinhurst Bucknell University

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Barbra Steinhurst is the Director of the Engineering Success Alliance at Bucknell University. She has extensive experience working with students on a variety of diversity spectra. Her previous roles have included teaching college mathematics and connecting rural students to accessible educational opportunities.

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Innovative retention and development programs for undergraduate minority engineering students(including bridge programs)Lights, Camera, Action! Increasing First-Year Engineering Student Academic Performance via an Innovative Pre-Orientation Program An intensive, week-long, residential pre-orientation program was developed to improvethe first-semester academic performance of students in the Engineering Success Alliance (ESA)program. The ESA is a success and empowerment program that provides students from under-resourced high schools with the skills and opportunities they need to be successful at theuniversity and in the engineering profession. Historically, in the entry level physics and calculuscourses taken by all engineering majors in the first semester, students in the ESA program wouldstruggle to earn passing grades on the first exam which commonly occurs during the fourth weekof classes. Beginning the ESA program at the start of the semester did not allow sufficient timeto assist students in establishing good study skills and relationships with faculty in time for thefirst exam jeopardizing future success in these courses. In the summer of 2012, a weeklong pre-orientation program immediately prior to theofficial first-year student arrival date was added to the ESA program. Fourteen first-yearstudents participated in this program that was run by the Director of the ESA program and twopeer facilitators. The program was themed around a theatrical production where the students arethe “stars” of the show. They meet and develop relationships with other “cast” and “crew”members during the program. The importance of the interrelationships between individuals andthe session topics to creating a successful “production” (academic year) was highlighted duringthe week. Program elements involved faculty who provided readiness sessions in writing,mathematics and physics, and many other campus constituents such as Multicultural StudentServices and The Writing Center. Each part of the program was designed to support one or moreof the goals of the ESA program which are 1) building academic self efficacy, 2) creating a senseof community and belonging, 3) balancing academic, social life and self, and 4) retention. There was a significant increase in the scores on the first Physics exam for the pre-orientation program participants as compared to the prior year’s ESA class. In the prior year, theaverage on the first physics exam for the 13 ESA participants was 61% with a standard deviationof 21. The average for all students in the course was 76% with a standard deviation of 15. Theexam average for the ESA students was a full standard deviation away from the course average.This year, the 14 students who participated in the pre-orientation program scored an average of65% with a standard deviation of 10. The average for all students in the course was 69% with astandard deviation of 16. The average for the ESA group was within one fourth of a standarddeviation from the course average. Given that the student selection process and otherprogramming for the ESA students has been the same this academic year as in the past, it islikely that these increases in performance can be attributed to the pre-orientation program. 

Marosi, K. T., & Steinhurst, B. (2013, June), Lights, Camera, Action! Increasing First-Year Engineering Student Academic Performance via an Innovative Pre-Orientation Program Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19882

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