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Multicultural Engineering Recruitment and Retention at a Large Urban University

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Developing Young Minds in Engineering: Part I

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.958.1 - 25.958.8



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Paper Authors


Katherine S. Zerda University of Houston

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Kathy Zerda is the Director of the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies (PROMES), the multicultural learning community for undergraduates at the Cullen College of Engineering. She also directs the UH Women in Engineering program. Zerda is an Instructional and Research Assistant Professor for the college and serves as the faculty adviser for the student chapters of the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists. Before joining the University of Houston, Zerda worked as an Engineering Manager for Hewlett-Packard Company. She earned the bachelor's of science degree from the University of Notre Dame, her Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, and a master's in business administration from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Zerda represents the University of Houston on the board of the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) and serves as current Board Chair.

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Stuart A. Long University of Houston

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Stuart A. Long was granted B.A. and M.E.E. degrees in electrical engineering from Rice University, Houston, Texas, in 1967 and 1968, respectively, and a Ph.D. degree in applied physics from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., in 1974. He joined the faculty at the University of Houston, and served as Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1984 to 1995 and as Associate Dean of the College of Engineering from 1995 to 2008. He was Interim Dean of the Honors College in 2008-2009. He also serves as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Research and the Honors College, and in this role oversees the undergraduate research programs for the entire campus. He is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a registered Professional Engineer. In 2010-2011, he served as Interim Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer.

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Fritz J. Claydon University of Houston

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Category: Innovative retention and development programs for undergraduate minority engineering students. Multicultural Engineering Recruitment and Retention at a Large Urban UniversityOur large urban university serves a diverse population of students including many first-generation-in-college (FGIC) students and many from groups traditionally underrepresented inthe engineering workforce. Students who enroll in engineering generally must work to financetheir education. As a result, four-year graduation rates are low, especially among AfricanAmerican and Hispanic students. To address the issue of low participation and low success forstudents of color, particularly women, in engineering fields, the college has developed amulticultural learning community framework with a number of related support structures.Participation is voluntary and multidisciplinary, and the community numbers approximately 500undergraduates, i.e. about 20% of the total population of engineering undergraduates. Thisintegrated framework of recruitment and retention activities supports the College ofEngineering’s mission of increasing student participation and student success amongunderrepresented groups.The scope of programs within this multicultural community framework includes unique outreachcollaborations with local school districts, nonprofits, and corporations to expose youngsters toexciting math, science, and engineering design activities led by engineering undergraduates. Italso includes on-campus day and residential summer engineering programs for precollegestudents and their undergraduate engineering student mentors. Once admitted to engineering,incoming college students gain access to a system of academic Best Practices that includes first-year common cohorts for math, science and engineering courses, collaborative learningworkshops, academic success tools, personal skills enhancement, formalized peer mentoring, andservice learning. Returning and transfer students access supplemental collaborative learningworkshops in support of sophomore- and junior-level engineering courses. These are peer-ledproblem-solving sessions that meet for three hours each week to reinforce concepts from lecturecourses such as Circuit Analysis, Electromagnetics, Thermodynamics, Statics, Dynamics, andChemical Processes. Upper division students also serve as mentors for new incoming students toreinforce these Best Practices.Over the past five years, we have tracked the effectiveness of this integrated systems approachby comparing outcomes between students engaged in this programming and non-participatingpeers enrolled in engineering. While the general population of first-time-in-college (FTIC)engineering students end the freshman year with an average cumulative GPA of 2.55 (five yearaverage), FTICs participating in the interventions have consistently done better. Data fromspring 2011 indicate an average GPA of 3.11 for participating FTIC students as compared to2.66 by non-participating FTIC students.Engineering workshops for sophomores and juniors have proved effective in improvingretention. We use a Mixed Methods approach in assessing impact. Pass rates are calculated as aquantitative measure and student feedback and perceptions are captured by mid and postsemester surveys to assess qualitative outcomes. Data shows increased pass rates and lower droprates among participants in workshops as compared to non-participating peers. Workshopstudents express that they feel more engaged in the process of learning, as do students in thecommunity as a whole. We attribute increased feelings of engagement and higher pass rates in 1key courses to recent improvements in four-year retention and graduation rates for communityparticipants compared with non-participants.

Zerda, K. S., & Long, S. A., & Claydon, F. J. (2012, June), Multicultural Engineering Recruitment and Retention at a Large Urban University Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21715

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