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This paper describes successes and challenges of a five-year National Science Foundation S-STEM project funded through the Division of Undergraduate Education, entitled “Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers (CREATE)” as the project moves through year three. The program being conducted by the College of Engineering at a large western land-grant university has retained 28 of the original 32 students (hereafter referred to as scholars) who were selected in two cohorts based on academic talent and financial need. Three of the scholars who left the program for personal reasons have been replaced. Current scholars identify as 22 male, 10 female, 17 white, 7 Hispanic, 1 Black, and 6 Asian. Program numbers mirror similar enrollment trends to the College with the following exceptions: higher female and students of color enrollment. The program faced the challenge of maintaining community amongst the scholars in a remote instruction environment due to the pandemic. To help combat feelings of isolation, CREATE conducted virtual and in-person co-curricular activities that emphasized team-building and hands-on engineering activities. These supported the scholars so that they still felt like university students. During year three, the program continues to offer a combination of curricular and co-curricular activities, with some implemented changes based on formative assessment performed during years one and two, as well as based on input from the scholars during the focus groups conducted every semester. All activities are geared towards success of the cohorts. Curricular support includes tutoring and study sessions, intrusive advising, regular progress reports from instructors, and, peer and faculty mentoring. As in years one and two, co-curricular support includes a variety of community building activities, a minimum of two mandatory theme seminars, two required “choice” (elective) activities including a variety of opportunities like job and internship related information sessions, participation in student clubs, engineer’s week, K-12 outreach, undergraduate research, and internships. In addition, we have introduced a goals-related aspect to the co-curricular support that includes a SMART goals survey filled out by the scholars. The survey resulted from a goals-related activity conducted at one of the year 2 theme seminars. Faculty mentors follow up with their mentees on progress towards their goals. This has been deemed very helpful by many scholars in that it makes them really think about goals and what they need to do to accomplish them. In addition, during spring and summer 2021, fifteen scholars pursued undergraduate research in engineering laboratories and internships at engineering companies. The undergraduate research program will be offered again in spring and summer 2022. For future work, the PI team is discussing transitioning to industry and research mentors for cohort 1 during their fourth year. The mixed methods engineering educational research study that is part of the CREATE program, involves collecting quantitative survey and qualitative focus group data every semester, has resulted in three publications/presentations focusing on 1. Meaningful recognition , 2. How virtual learning environments influence engineering identity , and, 3. Changes in performance/competence beliefs. These research findings add to the literature on self-efficacy and engineering identity and have been reported elsewhere. References: 1. K. Scalaro, I. Chatterjee, A-M. Vollstedt, J.L. Lacombe and A. Kirn, “A two-step model for the interpretation of meaningful recognition”, Proceedings of the 2021 ASEE Annual Virtual Conference, July 26-29, 2021. 2. K. Scalaro, I. Chatterjee, A-M. Vollstedt, J.L. Lacombe, A. Kirn, “Is this the real life? Exploring how virtual learning environments influence engineering identity”, Proceedings of the Frontiers of Engineering Conference, 2021, October 13-16, 2021, Lincoln, Nebraska. 3. K. Scalaro, I. Chatterjee, A-M. Vollstedt, J.L. Lacombe, A. Kirn, “From knowledge to doing: Changes in performance/competence beliefs of developing engineers”, abstract submitted to the 2022 ASEE Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.
Chatterjee, I., & Scalaro, K., & Vollstedt, A., & Lacombe, J., & Kirn, A. (2022, August), S-STEM: Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers - successes and challenges Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/42004
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