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Short-term Exploratory Summer Program for At-Risk First Year Students (work in progress)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Charles Lam California State University, Bakersfield

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Dr. Charles C.Y. Lam is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics. Dr. Lam received his Ph.D. in Combinatorics and Optimization from the University of Waterloo. His research areas are in cryptography, digital watermarking, and combinatorics. He has mentored various undergraduate student researchers as a faculty mentor for the LSAMP and McNair Scholars Program. He has extensive experience in curriculum assessment, undergraduate curriculum development, and student mentoring.

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Melissa Danforth California State University, Bakersfield

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Dr. Melissa Danforth is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). Dr. Danforth is the PI for a NSF Federal Cyber Service grant (NSF-DUE1241636) to create models for information assurance education and outreach. Dr. Danforth is the Project Director for a U.S. Department of Education grant (P031S100081) to create engineering pathways for students in the CSUB service area. She is also the co-PI for an NSF IUSE grant (NSF-DUE1430398) to improve STEM retention and graduation, the Activities Director for a U.S. Department of Education MSEIP grant (P120A110050) to develop an engineering calculus sequence and engineering outreach programs, and the Summer Program Director for another MSEIP grant (P120A140051) to improve pre-calculus and provide research opportunities for first and second year students. Her research interests are focused on network and system security, particularly with respects to protecting mission-critical resources and services. She is also conducting research in applying biological concepts to cybersecurity, such as artificial immune systems.

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Ronald Hughes California State University, Bakersfield

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(2009-Present) Associate Professor for the STEM Affinity Group, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, California State University, Bakersfield. Duties included teaching responsibilities in Undergraduate Biology, Graduate Level Science Curriculum, Philosophy, and Issues; Elementary and Secondary Science Methods; Student Teacher Supervision, and Educational Technology. Additional duties included grant writing, management, and evaluation; and university committees.

Include teaching and learning cognition skills, informal learning environments and strategies, and curriculum design.

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California State University is located in a region with low education achievement. According to census data, only 72% of the population finish high school and only 15% of the population hold university degrees, which is well below national average. The region is also highly diverse, with 63% underrepresented minorities, and rapidly growing, with a 32% growth since the 2000 census. Enrollment in STEM majors is growing, especially in Engineering, but the student body displays several characteristics that place them at-risk. Most students begin university curriculum in either remedial mathematics or pre-calculus, instead of being calculus-ready. Several students, many of whom are first-generation college students, display other characteristics that place them at-risk, such as a low GPA or high course-repeat rate, during the first year of studies.

In the Summer of 2015, 26 students were chosen to participate in a one-week science exploratory summer program in one of three STEM disciplines: Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics. The program began with a three and a half day exploratory workshop in one of the disciplines, led by an experienced faculty, and concluded with a half-day career workshop. This program was modeled after previous work that has been shown to increase interest and retention in STEM disciplines for underrepresented minorities. The major focus of the program was to use hand-on activities to engage students, to introduce them to a STEM discipline of their interest, and to increase career awareness at an early stage. In the Chemistry program, students participated in the analysis of components of coffee. In the Engineering program, students engaged in observation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. Participants studied basic chaos theory in the Mathematics program.

Students participating in this program completed pre- and post-surveys. At least 52% of the participants identified themselves as underrepresented minority. A majority of the participants were enrolled in either remedial mathematics or pre-calculus at the time of application to the program. In the pre-survey, a majority of the participants are interested in their field of study, and a career in STEM, but state they are less confident in their knowledge and preparedness to be successful in a STEM major. Most of the participants also expressed an interest to learn more about their field of study and career opportunities. Some participants indicated that they are not sure about their choice of field of study, and would like to take the opportunity to explore.

In the post-survey, participants have shown an increased interest in their field of study (87%), a career in STEM (81%), and research in STEM (87%). 100% of survey respondents recommend this program to others in the future. Retention data and at-risk status will be tracked for participants and participants will be invited to a follow-up program in the Summer of 2016.

Lam, C., & Danforth, M., & Hughes, R. (2016, June), Short-term Exploratory Summer Program for At-Risk First Year Students (work in progress) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27343

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