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On Becoming a "Transfer Institution": Research on a Community College that Supports Diverse Black Students in their Transfer Aspirations

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session VI

Tagged Topic

Undergraduate Education

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Paper Authors


Bruk T. Berhane University of Maryland, College Park

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Dr. Bruk T. Berhane received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 2003, after which he was hired by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), where he worked on nanotechnology. In 2005 he left JHU/APL for a fellowship with the National Academies, where he conducted research on methods of increasing the number of women in engineering. After a brief stint teaching mathematics in Baltimore City following his departure from the National Academies, he began working for the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering (CMSE) in the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland.
In 2011, he began working directly under the Office of the Dean in the Clark School. Currently, he serves the college as Director of the Office of Undergraduate Recruitment and Scholarship Programs. His current duties entail working with prospective freshmen and transfer students. Since assuming his duties, he has helped to increase the enrollment of freshmen underrepresented students of color to 17 percent. New freshmen women admitted to the Clark School have also increased during his tenure from 27 percent in 2012 to 37 precent in 2016.
Bruk completed a master’s degree in engineering management at George Washington University in 2007. In 2016, he earned a Ph.D. in the Minority and Urban Education Unit of the College of Education at the University of Maryland. His research focuses factors that facilitate transfer among Black engineering community college students.

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Community colleges have frequently been recognized as post-secondary institutions that educate many non-traditional students. Scholars note that collegians at the nation’s two-year schools are often older, balance full-time employment with major family obligations, or are more likely than undergraduates at four-year schools to demonstrate significant financial need. Additionally, community colleges may also be ideal settings for engaging talented students from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds who intend to major in STEM disciplines. This research-based paper illuminates ways in which faculty and staff at one community college (Eastern College, a pseudonym) have supported racially and ethnically diverse engineering undergraduates at their institution. We draw on data collected from interviews with faculty and advising staff at Eastern College (EC), in which they were queried about the support structures available for engineering students across their three campuses. Results reveal that EC faculty and staff are dedicated to supporting students in their transfer aspirations, and view their school as a “transfer institution.” Data also demonstrate that EC has attracted an increasing number of engineering undergraduates, enrolling many Black collegians from the diverse county in which it is based. Findings also indicate that administrators are not only aware of the numbers of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, but are also able to point to within-group interactions and trends among undergraduates of color. For example, one professor commented on the high number of Francophone Black African undergraduates on campus, and noted an instance in which two Francophone students mentored a native (American-born) Black student. Implications include a call for four-year institutions to engage more with community colleges, in order to broaden participation among underrepresented groups in engineering. We also suggest ways in which community colleges can use their expertise on the experiences of native and international Black collegians to inform policies and programs at other types of institutions.

Berhane, B. T. (2018, April), On Becoming a "Transfer Institution": Research on a Community College that Supports Diverse Black Students in their Transfer Aspirations Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia.

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