August 23, 2022
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Many Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs rely on Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) advertising their programs to recruit highly diverse applicants. Often, the partnership ends there. However, there are several opportunities that may be missed with this limited relationship. Here we outline how the POETS REU program leveraged several best practices to build mutually beneficial institutional relationships with MSIs that are student-focused. From 2018-2020 the POETS REU Site established partnerships with 3 Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) in California and Texas: San Antonio College (SAC), Cañada College, and University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). This resulted in the REU Site program recruiting 35 highly diverse undergraduate students, 100% of whom were from underrepresented groups, to engage in a 10-week summer program focused on interdisciplinary research in electrical, mechanical, and material engineering. Of this cohort, 44% were community college students, and 47% had parents who had not received a college degree. An external evaluation team found that over the course of the summer, the POETS REU students strengthened their engineering skillset, increased their confidence to pursue a career in STEM, and engaged in a very positive summer experience. Of the REU alumni who have graduated, over 95% have pursued STEM careers, with ~50% in STEM-relevant industry positions and ~45% in graduate school pursuing PhD and MS degrees in STEM. The MSI partnerships were extended beyond recruitment through several conversations with MSI faculty and staff about important factors for their students’ success, including community support, near-peer mentors, clear expectations, and opportunities to showcase their knowledge through a project. Over the years, the REU program has been able to incorporate MSI faculty suggestions into unique program aspects as well as complementary initiatives. One programmatic example includes changes to the on-site REU recruitment information sessions. Specifically, to address MSI staff’s concern around students’ being intimidated of applying to the REU program, several REU alumni from each MSI shared their experiences at the information sessions as well as advocated for specific candidates. This practice increased the number of applications from our MSI partners. One new initiative example that stemmed from this partnership includes the creation of a team-based REU project by SAC and University of Arkansas’ faculty. The positive outcomes from this team-based project caught the attention of the University of Arkansas’ College of Engineering department, which eventually led to a university transfer agreement between the community college and the four-year, out-of-state university. Initial data indicates specific program elements (i.e., team-based projects, alumni recruitment strategies, and cohort placement), driven by MSI suggestions, helped the REU students’ succeed within the REU program and beyond. These practices helped build trust among the students, which we found to be a very important aspect of working with MSIs and helped build a community of REU scholars within each recruitment region. In this paper, we detail how these partnerships were established as well as share program implementation details and evaluation results. Details of each institutions’ experience within this partnership will be shared as well as a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of these approaches. Assessment methods include both qualitative and quantitative surveys, interviews, observations, and artifact analysis.
Muskin, J., & Dixon, D., & Griffith, H., & Alleyne, A., & Alaniz, A., & Perez, J. (2022, August), Minority-serving Institution Partnerships Strengthen Underrepresented Minority Recruitment for a Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (Experience) Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41069
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