Asee peer logo

S-STEM: Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers - successes and challenges

Download Paper |


2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Indira Chatterjee University of Nevada, Reno


Kelsey Scalaro University of Nevada, Reno

visit author page

Kelsey is an engineering education Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Reno. She has a master's degree in mechanical engineering and 5 years of experience working in the aerospace industry. Her research focuses on identity development and motivation. After graduation, she plans on teaching project-oriented mechanical engineering classes or returning to industry working in training or retention.

visit author page


Ann-Marie Vollstedt University of Nevada, Reno

visit author page

Ann-Marie Vollstedt is a teaching assistant professor for the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Dr. Vollstedt completed her dissertation at UNR, which focused on exploring the use of statistical process control methods to assess course changes in order to increase student learning in engineering. Dr. Vollstedt teaches courses in engineering design as well as statics and runs the Engineering Freshmen Intensive Training Program. She is the recipient of the Paul and Judy Bible Teaching Excellence Award, F. Donald Tibbitt's Distinguished Teaching Award, The Nevada Women's Fun Woman of Achievement Award, and the UNR College of Engineering Excellence Award.

visit author page

author page

Jeffrey Lacombe University of Nevada, Reno


Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

Download Paper |


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 [1], 2. How virtual learning environments influence engineering identity [2], 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.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2022 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015