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NSF BEATS – Creating an Academic Innovation Ecosystem to Drive Student Success

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Catherine E. Douglas University of California, Los Angeles

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Catherine Douglas currently serves as the Director of the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED) Program. For over twenty years she has worked on the pre-college and undergraduate levels to prepare students to pursue and succeed in STEM based majors and careers.
She received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Norfolk State University and a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics from Hofstra University.

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Scott Brandenberg University of California, Los Angeles

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Scott is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the Samueli Engineering School at UCLA.

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Anabella Gonzalez

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NSF BEATS – Creating an Academic Innovation Ecosystem to Drive Student Success The overriding objective of the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED) National Science Foundation funded Broadening Ecosystem Attributes for Talented Scholars (BEATS) project is to recruit, retain, develop, mentor and graduate low-income, underrepresented engineering and computer science students.

Historically underrepresented engineering students (URES) suffer 60% attrition in their freshmen cohort leading to only 40% earning a B.S. degree in engineering. The attrition problem is concentrated in the 1st generation, low income, urban and rural high school student populations. As evidenced by their SAT Math achievement scores and high GPA’s which prompted their admission, these students are smart. However, they received their STEM education in low performing urban and rural high schools and were raised in highly challenged under-resourced neighborhoods. Research shows that these talented students succumb to the intensity of the 1st and 2nd year university math/science courses. The S-STEM BEATS project builds upon prior NSF S-STEM and STEP projects lessons and practices which proved S-STEM scholars will thrive best when embedded and engaged in an academic innovation ecosystem which allows students to benefit from the support talents and knowledge of the community.

The Persistence In Engineering (PIE) academic and social integration approach addresses this retention challenge by building successive URES cohorts into a peer-supportive community pursuing academic mastery and engaging in engineering research and professional activities as a counter measure to close these disparities. The two major PIE constructs are the Critical Transition Program (CTP) centered on early and specific academic interventions and the Co-Curricular Active Learning Community (CALC) component centered on community building, professional development. CTP and CALC constructs share elements in which the academic and community building activities overlap. It is important to note NSF BEATS scholars were required to participate in the majority of CTP and CALC activities executed in the 2017-2019 academic years.

This poster will present education outcomes for the 44 students who have participated in the BEATS program since its inception in 2017. One hundred percent of the 7 freshman and 2 transfer students who were newly admitted to the NSF BEAT program in 2019 were retained to their second year. Eighty-two percent of the 44 student maintained a GPA of 3.0 or better. During the 2019-20 academic year, fifteen NSF BEATS scholars graduated with engineering or computer science degrees. Of these graduates, 14/15 (93.3%) graduated with a GPA of 3.0 or better and an average GPA of 3.42. . The NSF BEATS initial student outcomes support the need for such critical programs for low income and “At Risk” students. Participants can gain a strong sense of belonging, self-efficacy, teamwork and collective sense of academic purpose. We hope the lessons learned from this effort will inform other schools of engineering on effective retention elements that seem to be closely associated with increased persistence of URES students.

Douglas, C. E., & Brandenberg, S., & Gonzalez , A. (2021, July), NSF BEATS – Creating an Academic Innovation Ecosystem to Drive Student Success Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37528

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