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PIPELINES: Fostering University-Community College Partnerships and STEM Professional Success for Underrepresented Populations

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Maria Teresa Napoli University of California, Santa Barbara

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Dr. Maria Teresa Napoli received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, in 2004. In 1999, she also earned a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Padova in Italy. Currently, she holds positions as VP of MEMS Development at Laxmi Therapeutic Devices, and as Community College Programs Manager at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to this appointment, she worked for several years as a microsensors system expert at SensorDynamics AG. Her research interests include nanofluidic technologies for medical applications, modeling and control of large arrays of MEMS, and educational strategies and programs to increase STEM diversity.

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Elizabeth Sciaky University of California, Santa Barbara, Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships

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Program Evaluator at the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships at UC Santa Barbara.

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Diana Jaleh Arya University of California, Santa Barbara

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Diana Arya is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Arya’s research interests focus on science and engineering literacy practices within K-12 science classroom and professional communities.

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Noreen Balos University of California, Santa Barbara

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Noreen Balos is a doctoral student in the Learning, Culture & Technology program at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Prior to UCSB, she served as Student Affairs Officer for UCLA’s Biomedical Research minor program advising undergraduate researchers in their pursuit of MD or MD-PhD. At ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, & Energy (SEMTE), she was a Project Manager, overseeing with CO-PIs, an NSF Innovation through Institutional Integration (I^3) grant collaborating with academic departments such as mathematics, physics, engineering, and education. One of the foci of this grant was to train K-8 certified teachers in modeling pedagogy and to support them in receiving a Master’s in STEM education.
Her specific work with student STEM programs includes: connecting and funding K-12 students in university summer programs, coordinating STEM professional development programs for teachers, and leading departmental involvement in campus-based, state-wide Science and Technology festival for students, families, and the community. Prior to her work in higher education, Noreen was an Instructor Meteorologist & Wing Weather Officer for the USAF, specifically training personnel in synoptic forecasting and providing operational weather data for different missions at home station and while on deployments to Europe and the Middle East. With her background in science and professional experience in higher education, her research interests include: STEM Education, Culture in STEM, and Access & Equity in STEM.

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Funded by the Office of Naval Research in 2015, the Problem-based Initiatives for Powerful Engagement and Learning In Naval Engineering and Sciences (PIPELINES) is a collaborative project between the University of California Santa Barbara and the Naval Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center at Port Hueneme, California. PIPELINES is a summer workforce learning experience that supports students’ development of career-relevant skills while supporting students’ abilities to (a) critically reflect on and apply their STEM knowledge, (b) identify resources needed for advancement in such abilities, and (c) develop strategies to support their academic achievement towards advanced STEM studies and careers. The program involves an ethnographic methodology to make visible students’ perspectives in engineering thinking, in order to develop effective strategies for STEM outreach and recruitment of underrepresented populations, including minorities and veterans.

PIPELINES is an example of how practitioners and researchers in engineering and education can work together towards achieving their respective goals, all of which are focused on increasing a currently dwindling engineering workforce in the U.S. In this effort, PIPELINES has focused on attracting military veteran students, seen as an untapped pool of talent with a transformative potential on the future U.S. economy. A number of studies have shown that, during their years in service, veterans often gain advanced technical skills in addition to strong leadership and time management skills: all qualities that make them excellent candidates as future scientists or engineers.

The challenge in attracting and recruiting veterans to engineering was documented by a recent NSF-funded study that reported many veterans opt for traditional job sectors, such as security or law enforcement, out of concerns about time to degree completion. This finding is corroborated by our conversations with veteran coordinators at community colleges (CCs) and veteran advocates in our area, who confirmed that most veteran students opt for non-STEM degrees. The reasons behind this choice are multiple, and include a surprising lack of awareness by veterans about how their training and technical capacity might translate into STEM career opportunities, rusty mathematics skills, and family commitments. Furthermore, although CCs have increased efforts to provide support services to veteran students (e.g., Veteran Resource Centers and Counselors), based on our observations, veteran students tend to shy away from organized groups or activities, making outreach and recruitment efforts particularly challenging.

In this work, we discuss findings from our first iteration of the PIPELINES program and highlight strategies we have found effective in developing and implementing such a multi-tiered, interdisciplinary effort, in which each actor (educators, researchers, and Navy scientists and engineers) brings complementary knowledge and skills that are key to PIPELINES programmatic and recruitment success.

Napoli, M. T., & Sciaky, E., & Arya, D. J., & Balos, N. (2017, June), PIPELINES: Fostering University-Community College Partnerships and STEM Professional Success for Underrepresented Populations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28745

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