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Native American Mentorships: Industry's Next Step to Assist Native Americans' Transition into STEM Careers?

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Corporate Member Council Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Corporate Member Council

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Paper Authors


Jared V. Berrett Utah State University

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Dr. Jared Berrett has mixed method case study research expertise and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois where he completed a traineeship in the College of Engineering and worked in the Faculty Teachers College there. He owns two businesses, has worked for Novel and Microsoft, and is currently the new Director of FIRST robotics for the state of Utah. It is his passion to try to motivate non-traditional students to be successful in STEM careers and fields. He leads a STEM program at USU Eastern Blanding Campus and is the PI of a small STEPuP grant in the State of Utah attempting to infuse STEM into the local school district in South Eastern Utah.

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Cedale Sage Armstrong Utah State University

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I am a Navajo college student that grew up on the northern rim of the Navajo Nation. Besides living on the reservation, I have also lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a portion of my elementary school years and also lived in San Diego, CA for 6 years. I am a "Marine Brat" as my father served 5 years in the United States Marine Corps. I am the oldest of 9 children (6 sisters and 2 brothers) and am the leading example for all of them. I am an outdoors and adventurous person. I also love my sports. Through high school I played 4 years of football and two years of Track&Field. I developed an interest in engineering during my sophomore year in high school and am currently working on my Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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Curtis G Frazier Utah State University Eastern

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Enrolled member of Navajo Tribe.
Degree in Design Engineering. Masters in Math Education.
Worked as a Liaison Engineer for Boeing Co.

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Key Problem: How can we develop a better pathway to help Native American students to become competitive and excel in Industry?

Internships are a well-established gateway for traditional students to get their foot in the door to Industry. Both stakeholders benefit. Industry partners create a pipeline for talent and students hopefully perform well enough to secure them a future job and/or get a good resume experience. At our institution, we feel most of our students are ill-prepared for internships. Many factors contribute including self-confidence and lack of skills. If thrown into the internship too early, both stakeholders loose. For this reason, we have pilot tested a program to provide a 4 week summer “mentorship” experience on the main parent campus for Native students to be mentored by professors and lab directors in STEM fields. Native American students are the lowest performing minority group of all minority categories in the U.S. in higher education and need this extra measure to help ensure success. This program has focused on academic preparedness, but we feel it could be a great fit for Industry. The success grew from four students the first year to over twenty who recently successfully completed the program. The participants both students, staff, and faculty have had great feedback from the 84 people that participated and helped make it happen in. This case study has occurred at a branch campus of a land grant institution in the western United States, 70% students served are Native American. The site is located on the border of the largest reservation in the US. This Native American Serving Non Tribal Institution (NASNTI) has the highest retention of any of its competitors.

The lead professor will provide pertinent information about student demographics including the impoverished circumstances that exist within our own country from whence students succeed. The paper details the two year program including what has worked and how this model might have a place beyond academia will be considered. Specifics about the differences between "mentorships" and "internships" will be explored in the paper and discussed with the attendees through an interactive active learning approach. Bridging the gap in skills necessary for Native American students to become competitive and excel in industry is the ultimate goal. Exploring how to assist and making connections with Industry and creating pathways is key to students success. In addition to sharing information via the paper and presentation, feedback will be sought on how Industry partners might feel the program would need to be tweaked to succeed in industry. Connections will be made by those whom may be interested in leveraging the current experience and case study format completed in 2015 and considers piloting a mentorship program with Native students from this campus in industry.

Berrett, J. V., & Armstrong, C. S., & Frazier, C. G. (2016, June), Native American Mentorships: Industry's Next Step to Assist Native Americans' Transition into STEM Careers? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25773

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