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The Shift from the Two- to Four-Year Institute: How Research Experiences Impact Community College Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Research, Innovation and Careers

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

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Paper Authors


Megan Patberg Morin North Carolina State University

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Megan Patberg Morin is a third year Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. She is currently studying STEM education with a focus in Technology, Engineering, and Design. Her undergraduate degree is in Middle Childhood Education focusing on Math and Science from the University of Dayton, and her Master’s is also from NC State in Technology and Engineering Education. She currently works as Graduate Assistant in the Education and Workforce program at the FREEDM Systems Center and PowerAmerica at NC State. She focuses her research in electrical engineering education specifically research experiences, underrepresented populations, teaching practices, and community college students. Her dissertation will be a Phenemological case study on community college students in a Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program.

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Alireza Dayerizadeh North Carolina State University

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Alireza received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Florida in 2015. His previous industry experience includes engineering roles at DPR Construction, Jabil, GE Aviation, and Stryker Communications. In the Fall of 2016, Alireza began pursing a PhD in Power Electronics at North Carolina State University. He is a recipient of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department's Merit Fellowship (2016) and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2018). His current research interests include electric vehicle fast chargers and wireless power transfer.

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Kristen Booth North Carolina State University Orcid 16x16

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Kristen Booth is a PhD candidate with a focus in Power Electronics within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU). She graduated from NCSU with a Master of Science in 2017 and Murray State University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 2015. Kristen's research interests include electrical engineering education, medium frequency transformer optimization, and electric vehicle fast charger design optimization.

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Undergraduate research programs provide ample opportunities and rewards, such as a greater understanding of a discipline, developing critical thinking skills, providing networking opportunities, and increased interest in graduate education. However, community colleges often do not offer undergraduate research opportunities. Our university designed a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program with the purposeful recruitment of local community college students to create opportunity and expose these students to emerging technologies, like wide bandgap semiconductors (WBG) and renewable energy applications. The goal was to diversify academic representation for the program and our field.

Intentional student selection is most significant when creating a diverse and inclusive environment. REU participation included 33.3% of students from community college students and 42% from underrepresented populations. Through deliberate efforts to create an inclusive community using team-building activities and social gatherings, participants focused on being one cohort while learning together. With strong relationships, students are more willing to communicate and collaborate during their research.

Recruiting REU students from a community college increases awareness of and interest in WBG and renewable technologies, fields that are in high demand. Through working in cutting edge university labs, the REU program provides students an opportunity to develop critical technical skills which they might not learn at a community college. This REU program offered weekly differentiated technical sessions for participants to address any gaps in prior knowledge between students from a four-year institution and community college. These sessions also aided the graduate mentors in providing targeted support for their community college mentees.

In a day-long workshop, an Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student led a teaching module and hands-on experimental session on WBG-based technologies. The community college students scored 94% on the post-assessment, making a 12% improvement from the pre-assessment. Students also participated in weekly sessions focused on specific professional skills such as networking, sharing a perfect pitch, and writing a literature review. From the REU post-survey, students ranked a four and above on a five-point scale in public speaking, problem-solving, networking, and collaborating.

The REU program also assisted the community college students transition to a four-year institution as 100% of the participants successfully transitioned; 75% of them chose the REU site home institution, and 25% chose another research institution. The program also prepared students for graduate school as the Education Team educated students on how to complete applications, obtain funding, and pursue a graduate program. Graduate school interest increased by 25% for community college participants as well as research and industry-focused careers in renewable energy and STEM. All REU participants shared that 100% of their goals were met from the REU experience and would recommend our program. From this program, we hope to continue to increase our community college collaborations through developing a new partnership with another local community college. Results from this program have shown that community college students who participate in research opportunities have increased interest in critical fields of engineering which develops a well-rounded and more diverse technical workforce.

Morin, M. P., & Dayerizadeh, A., & Booth, K. (2019, June), The Shift from the Two- to Four-Year Institute: How Research Experiences Impact Community College Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33424

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