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Student Retention Barriers in a Chemical Engineering Program

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Retention and Bridge Programs #1

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35239

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35239

Download Count

164

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Paper Authors

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Marina Miletic University of New Mexico

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Dr. Marina Miletic served as a Lecturer in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for eight years. She taught Senior Design and Unit Operations among other courses and helped establish one of the nation’s first week-long Chemical Engineering summer camps for girls. Her research has focused on promoting concept-based learning in the classroom, developing Chemical Engineering video lectures, studying the efficacy of remote web-controlled Unit Operations experiments, and incorporating Design throughout the Chemical Engineering curriculum. She currently works as a freelance Engineering Education Consultant and Chemical Engineer. She is the Project Manager for NSF grant #1623105, IUSE/PFE:RED: FACETS: Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society, for which she is advising and coordinating assessment.

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Abhaya K. Datye University of New Mexico

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Abhaya Datye has been on the faculty at the University of New Mexico after receiving his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan in 1984. He is presently Chair of the department and Distinguished Regents Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering. From 1994-2014 he served as Director of the Center for Microengineered Materials, a strategic research center at UNM that reports to the Vice President for Research. He is also the founding director of the graduate interdisciplinary program in Nanoscience and Microsystems, the first program at UNM to span three schools and colleges and the Anderson Business School. He served as director of this program from 2007 – 2014. His research interests are in heterogeneous catalysis, materials characterization and nanomaterials synthesis. His research group has pioneered the development of electron microscopy tools for the study of catalysts.

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Vanessa Svihla University of New Mexico Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-4342-6178

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Dr. Vanessa Svihla is a learning scientist and associate professor at the University of New Mexico in the Organization, Information & Learning Sciences program and in the Chemical & Biological Engineering Department. She served as Co-PI on an NSF RET Grant and a USDA NIFA grant, and is currently co-PI on three NSF-funded projects in engineering and computer science education, including a Revolutionizing Engineering Departments project. She was selected as a National Academy of Education / Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow and a 2018 NSF CAREER awardee in engineering education research. Dr. Svihla studies learning in authentic, real world conditions; this includes a two-strand research program focused on (1) authentic assessment, often aided by interactive technology, and (2) design learning, in which she studies engineers designing devices, scientists designing investigations, teachers designing learning experiences and students designing to learn.

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Eva Chi University of New Mexico Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7448-9943

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Eva Chi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at the University of New Mexico. The research in her lab is focused on understanding the dynamics and structures of macromolecular assemblies including proteins, polymers, and lipid membranes. Undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars are trained in a multidisciplinary environment, utilizing modern methodologies to address important problems at the interface between chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology preparing the trainees for careers in academe, national laboratories, and industry. In addition to research, she devotes significant time developing and implementing effective pedagogical approaches in her teaching of undergraduate courses to train engineers who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and able to understand the societal contexts in which they are working to addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century.

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Jamie Gomez University of New Mexico

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Jamie Gomez, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer III in the department of Chemical & Biological Engineering (CBE) at the University of New Mexico. She is a co- principal investigator for the following National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects: Professional Formation of Engineers: Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (PFE: RIEF) - Using Digital Badging and Design Challenge Modules to Develop Professional Identity; Professional Formation of Engineers: REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (IUSE PFE\RED) - Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society. She is a member of the CBE department’s ABET and Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, as well as faculty advisor for several student societies. She is the instructor of several courses in the CBE curriculum including the Material and Energy Balances, junior laboratories and Capstone Design courses. She is associated with several professional organizations including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and American Society of Chemical Engineering Education (ASEE) where she adopts and contributes to innovative pedagogical methods aimed at improving student learning and retention.

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Pil Kang University of New Mexico

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Sung “Pil” Kang is an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. His academic interests include change management, change model validation, and mindset evolution. He may be reached at pilkang@unm.edu

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Sang M. Han University of New Mexico

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Dr. Han is a Regents Professor in the Departments of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of New Mexico. He earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his B.S. in chemical engineering with honors from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Han has over 25 years of experience in electronic and photonic materials engineering and fabrication. His current research topics include (1) writable/rewritable quantum structures by stress patterning; (2) low-cost, crack-tolerant, advanced metallization for solar cell durability; (3) thin film processing and nanoscale surface corrugation for enhanced light trapping for photovoltaic devices; and (4) microsphere-based manufacturable coatings for radiative cooling. He has close to 70 publications in peer-reviewed journals and over 200 invited/contributed papers at academic institutions, national laboratories, and conferences. He received a UNM Junior Faculty Research Excellence Award in 2005 and an NSF Career Award in 2001. He is a recipient of STC.UNM Innovation Award consecutively from 2009 to 2018, and he was elected as the 2018 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow. Dr. Han holds 17 UNM-affiliated U.S. patents and 6 pending U.S. and PCT patent applications. He currently serves as the Chief Technical Officer of Osazda Energy LLC, a startup company based on his intellectual property generated at UNM. Prior to his entrepreneurial venture, Dr. Han served as the main campus faculty member of the STC.UNM Board of Directors from 2015 to 2016.

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Yan Chen University of New Mexico Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-9479-7377

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Yan Chen is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of New Mexico. Her research interests focus on computer-supported collaborative learning, online learning and teaching, and educational equity for multicultural/multiethnic education.

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Catherine Anne Hubka University of New Mexico Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-8892-6948

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Catherine (Cat) Hubka, MFA, holds appointments at the University of New Mexico in the Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE), Nuclear Engineering, and Department of English. For CBE, she is embedded in the 300 and 400 labs where she supports curriculum redesign focused on incorporating content-based writing approaches. In the Nuclear Engineering Department, she supports writing in 300-level lab courses by designing writing assignments that scaffold to formal reports. In the Department of English, Cat teaches in the Core Writing Program where her pedagogy incorporates creative writing workshop strategies and collaborative writing for traditional and nontraditional, at-risk student populations.

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Abstract

In this research paper, we examine and discuss factors that most impact student retention at a large Hispanic-serving chemical engineering program situated in a public research university. We also examine how retention has been affected by broad curricular changes implemented within our department over the past four years.

As part of a Revolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments five year grant from the National Science Foundation, our department has changed its chemical engineering curriculum by incorporating Community-, Industry-, Research-, and/or Entrepreneurship-based design challenges through the core curriculum, engaging students in Writing-Across-the-Curriculum (WAC), offering faculty professional development workshops, and implementing a digital badging system to help students take ownership of their competencies. Such fundamental changes to department structure and curriculum elicit many questions about outcomes and student retention. This paper outlines some of the key barriers to successful student retention in our program by identifying conspicuous factors linked to student attrition and retention. This paper also identifies how retention has been affected by broad programmatic changes.

The students in our program are atypically diverse compared to those found at other large Research I universities. According to student surveys and enrollment data, our students are 43% female, 45% are Latinx, 5% are Native American, 28% are first-generation college attendees, 27% are from lower income families, 33% speak a language other than English at home, 52% of students work more than 10 hours per week while in college, and 52% of students’ mothers and 48% of their fathers have not earned a college degree.

Our examination of Enrollment Management retention and attrition data show that students transfer into our program largely from Biochemistry, Biology, and Chemistry programs. When students transfer out, they predominately leave to those three majors as well as engineering majors such as Mechanical and Civil. A promising finding is that over 50% of our four-year graduates are first-generation college students, even though first-generation college attendees represent only around one-third of our students. This result suggests that first generation students are more likely to stay in our chemical engineering program and finish their degree on time, compared to non-first generation students who are more likely to transfer into and out of the program. Another positive finding is that females, Hispanic students, and Asian students are retained at around 40%, the same overall rate as all students combined. This Hispanic student retention rate is higher than the national average of 32% [1]. Students who drop out of our program and the university entirely, are disproportionately male students who attended lower-rated high schools and are usually not first-generation college students. These retention analyses have been instrumental in helping us aim the direction of support and programmatic changes offered to students.

[1] Lane, J.I. "Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers," National Academies Press, 2019.

Miletic, M., & Datye, A. K., & Svihla, V., & Chi, E., & Gomez, J., & Kang, P., & Han, S. M., & Chen, Y., & Hubka, C. A. (2020, June), Student Retention Barriers in a Chemical Engineering Program Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35239

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