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Mentorship Techniques as they Relate to the Retention of First-year Traditional and Non-traditional Engineering Students

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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

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 10: Paying Attention to Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1147.1 - 26.1147.12



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Paper Authors


Sydney N Hallman University of Oklahoma

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Sydney Hallman is an electrical engineering senior at the University of Oklahoma. She also participates in the Accelerated Degree Program and will continuing her graduate work at the University of Oklahoma in electrical engineering. She has served as the Teaching Assistant for the Transfer Engineering Course and for Engineering Professional Development Course for multiple semesters. She is an active member of the Dean's Leadership Council Mentor Program, the Society for Professional Hispanic Engineers, Heta Kappa Nu, and Tau Beta Pi. With these organizations, she has regularly experienced the challenges and rewards of student involvement first-hand. Her future includes a full-time position for ONEOK in Tulsa, OK after graduation.

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Chad Eric Davis P.E. University of Oklahoma

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Chad E. Davis received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, M.S. degree in electrical engineering, and Ph.D. degree in engineering from the University of Oklahoma (OU), Norman, in 1994, 2000, and 2007, respectively. Since 2008, he has been a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) faculty, University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the OU-ECE faculty, he worked in industry at Uponor (Tulsa, OK), McElroy Manufacturing (Tulsa, OK), Lucent (Oklahoma City, OK), Celestica (Oklahoma City, OK), and Boeing (Midwest City, OK). His work experience ranges from electromechanical system design to automation of manufacturing and test processes. His research at OU involves GPS ground-based augmentation systems utilizing feedback control. Dr. Davis holds a professional engineering license in the state of Oklahoma. He currently serves as the faculty advisor for Robotics Club, the Loyal Knights of Old Trusty, and Sooner Competitive Robotics at OU and he serves as the recruitment and outreach coordinator for OU-ECE. He received the Provost's Outstanding Academic Advising Award in 2010 and the Brandon H. Griffin Teaching Award in the COE at OU in both 2012 and 2013.

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Mentorship Techniques as They Relate to the Retention of First Year Traditional and Non-traditional Engineering StudentsAbstract:At our university, engineering students take a 1-credit hour engineering orientationcourse that is designed to help them assimilate into the College of Engineering(COE). Incoming freshmen engineering majors take a different orientation coursethan incoming transfer engineering students. This paper analyzes the retentionrates between the non-traditional engineering students that have completed thetransfer engineering orientation course versus the freshman students thatcompleted the freshman engineering orientation course. Both of these courses aresimilar in content, but they strive to be tailored to the needs of the two types ofstudents that are enrolled by having different schedules, structures, and mentorshipapproaches. Guest speakers are arranged from different University COEdepartments to inform new students of the services available to them. Theseservices include: Career Services, Study Abroad, Student Advising, Diversity andInclusion Programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities. The freshmanengineering orientation course has a supplementary project-based section taught bydifferent professors to give hands-on engineering experience in their first year ofUniversity coursework. The transfer engineering orientation class does not havethis additional project-based course, but instead focuses on preparation for theUniversity career fair, professional licensure, and additional certifications availablethrough the university like Lean Six Sigma and LabVIEW CLAD. Both orientationcourses are designed based on the key factors of planning, dedication, and rewardsof a degree in engineering. The differences in course content are based on therealization that the motivations for obtaining a degree in engineering can differsignificantly between freshmen and transfer students. The COE leadershiprecognized that a single orientation course for all incoming engineering studentswould not serve the needs of new students as effectively as the two-course offeringscurrently in place.One important ingredient of these courses is the involvement of an orientationmentorship program. The mentor program was created to increase retention ratesby providing peer-based guidance and exposure to University resources during animportant transition period in the students’ academic careers. The mentor programis composed of selected student leaders in the COE that are assigned to assist withsections of either the freshman or transfer course. Student mentors who alsotransferred into the University are typically placed in the transfer engineeringorientation course while more traditional student mentors are placed in thefreshman engineering orientation course. For the freshman orientation course,mentors are used for the large section lecture as well as the smaller project-basedsections mentioned above. Small groups of approximately ten freshman studentsare assigned a mentor. The mentor is responsible for organizing and leading groupactivities with their protégés’ every other week. The off weeks are when guestspeakers give a presentation in the large lecture section. The purpose of the mentoractivities is to allow the students to make a close connection with an involved andacademically successful upper-classman. Since the student groups aremultidisciplinary, it gives the freshman students exposure to working in teams withdifferent engineering majors at the beginning of their academic careers at theUniversity. The mentors assigned to the project-based section of the freshmanorientation class have specific roles depending on which professor is teaching thecourse. Most mentors are asked to act as a “technical teaching assistant” to helpstudents learn new software or master basic engineering concepts needed tosuccessfully implement a project’s design. Mentors in the transfer orientationsection take on a significantly different role. There are no small group breakoutsections so the students only have a large lecture section where the guest speakerspresent each week. There are scheduled “mentor-days” where the assignedmentor(s) for the class give organized presentations over selected topics notcovered by the other speakers. These mentor-days are typically more informal thanthe other lectures and give new students an opportunity to ask important questionsabout transfer credit equivalencies, student life, class assignments, and successfullybalancing academics with other commitments. The mentors for the transfer courseare chosen with the goal of creating a diverse mentor group. Some mentors mayhave experience with study abroad or transferring from another department at theUniversity while other mentors may have internship experience and be out-of-statestudents. Ultimately, the mentorship program for both courses is designed to createa more personal connection with new engineering students than traditionalprofessor based interactions. This paper will describe the innovative practices,learning objectives, and distinguishing factors of these two courses. The student’sperspective on how well the learning objectives were met will be assessed throughstudent surveys. A detailed assessment of retention will also be included.

Hallman, S. N., & Davis, C. E. (2015, June), Mentorship Techniques as they Relate to the Retention of First-year Traditional and Non-traditional Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24484

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