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The Formal Research Group Model As An Undergraduate Retention Tool

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.1006.1 - 6.1006.6



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Patricia Nava

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session #1332

The Formal Research Group Model as an Undergraduate Retention Tool

Patricia A. Nava Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering The University of Texas at El Paso


Undergraduate attrition is a problem in urban Texas State universities, where the graduation rate is lower than 40%. A theory for college departure argues that this graduation rate could be increased significantly by increasing the frequency of formal social contacts (technical experiences outside of the classroom). These technical experiences can be in a research group, the benefits of which are that students develop domain expertise, gain an understanding and appreciation of the research process and its practice, and acquire team, communication, problem- solving, and higher-level thinking skills. Students with this experience are better prepared to address the remainder of their undergraduate curriculum successfully, as well as being equipped to attend graduate school. This paper describes a model developed to engage students in undergraduate research and to deliver the benefits and responsibilities of a small research lab to their hands. This model, based on the affinity group model, formalizes functional tasks within the lab as well as serving as a foundation for research mentorship. The implementation of the model, the Neuro-Fuzzy Systems Research Group, provides a mechanism and infrastructure that supports the development of students, both on a professional and personal level. The group uses structured activities to develop their research, technical, communication and group skills. The implementation of the model is discussed, as well as its specific characteristics, and its use as a retention tool.

I. Introduction

The attrition and low rate of success of undergraduate students, especially those belonging to under-represented minority populations, are becoming major issues in Higher Education. Current six-year graduation rates of Hispanic serving institutions in the Southwest United States range between 20 and 41%1. This low rate of successful completion is due to yearly attrition between 20 and 40% of the class. In order to increase this low rate of success, institutions must look for novel methods to encourage students to persist in their pursuit of a degree. One method that engages students academically and socially is the undergraduate research experience. Undergraduate research activities are known to promote goal setting and planning beyond graduation, thus affecting student retention.2

The affinity group model, being implemented at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is more far-reaching than the usual research group. The Neuro-Fuzzy Systems Research Group seeks to engage students, develop them professionally and personally as well as accomplishing the research goals. As a by-product of the effective affinity group, the participants become ambassadors to the college and local community. In this

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Nava, P. (2001, June), The Formal Research Group Model As An Undergraduate Retention Tool Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9283

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