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Using Enhanced Professional Networks to Increase Overall Student Retention

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37990

Download Count

18

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Paper Authors

biography

Robert Merton Stwalley III P.E. Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Dr. Robert M. Stwalley III, P.E. joined the Agricultural & Biological Engineering department as a faculty member in the fall of 2013. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Biological Engineering (ABE) and his M.S.E. and Ph.D. from Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. Dr. Stwalley is the former Director of Professional Practice at Purdue, has more than 20 years in STEM education, and has been a long-term advocate for improving equity in education. He is a long serving public school board member and President of the Indiana School Board Association. In his current capacity as an ABE professor, Dr. Stwalley works on precision livestock instrumentation to improve animal welfare and performance, increasing potable water access in the developing world through tube well utilization, and equity in access to higher education for low socio-economic status students. Dr. Stwalley developed the Rising Scholars program to help demonstrate that access and support are the most crucial elements of success in higher education for STEM majors.

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biography

Carol S. Stwalley Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Dr. Carol S. Stwalley, PE joined the Minority Engineering Program team in the fall of 2007 as Recruitment and Retention Analyst. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Biological Engineering (ABE), MSABE, and PhD ABE from Purdue University. Carol has more than 14 years in diversity work with considerable background working with the Women in Engineering Programs at Purdue. In her current capacity as Recruitment and Retention Analyst for the Minority Engineering Program and the Purdue Office of Institutional Assessment, Dr. Stwalley collects, analyzes and manages data pertaining to the outreach, recruitment, retention and graduation of engineering students from historically underrepresented groups.

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Virginia Lynn Booth-Womack Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Virginia received her B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a B.A. in Psychology while at Purdue University. She is currently the Director of Minority Engineering Programs in the College of Engineering. She assumed the position in 2004 after 18 years of manufacturing experience. Her last assignment was Lean Manufacturing Manager for the for the 3.7L and 4.7L Mack Engine facilities at Chrysler Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. Virginia has applied lean manufacturing concepts to identify and close the achievement gap between under-represented minority engineering students and the total engineering cohort. This was achieved focusing on first semester performance and first year retention through implementation of an aggressive transition program targeting first year engineering students from historically under-represented groups. She recently was called upon to serve as interim Executive Director for the National Society of Black Engineers from December 2013 through August 2014 during which time the organization experienced membership growth and strong metric focus towards goal attainment.

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Grace Lynn Baldwin Purdue University at West Lafayette

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Grace Baldwin, joined the Rising Scholar NSF S-STEM program in the Summer of 2017 as a Graduate Research Assistant. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree at Purdue University in Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) with a focus in Environment and Natural Resources Engineering. She has worked with the Rising Scholars' Program during the completion of her Master of Science in Agricultural and Biological Engineering and into her current Ph.D. program at Purdue University also in ABE. As part of the Rising Scholars’ program, she has helped plan and organize the student recruitment events, align students with summer research experiences and faculty mentors, and conduct student interviews for program analysis and evaluation. Ms. Baldwin has actively contributed to the collection and analysis of data for the Rising Scholars program, as well as the dissemination of information about the progress of the program.

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Sarah LaRose Purdue University at West Lafayette

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Dr. Sarah E. LaRose joined the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication at Purdue University in the fall of 2018 as an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut, and her Ph.D. in Agricultural Education and Communication from the University of Florida. Dr. LaRose has over 13 years of experience in agricultural education in secondary and postsecondary settings. Since joining the faculty at Purdue, Dr. LaRose serves as a teacher educator, preparing future agricultural educators to meet the needs of a diverse array of learners in their classes. She teaches coursework in curriculum design, laboratory teaching practices, and teaching methods in agricultural education. Central to all of Dr. LaRose’s work as an educator and a scholar is an effort to address inequities in agricultural education curriculum, program design, and recruitment practices.

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Abstract

The National Science Foundation awarded funds in 2016 through the DUE in an S-STEM program to investigate a connection between student support networks and success within STEM fields in higher education. A Web of Support characterization model, based upon work with Native American populations, was modified using these ‘network’ predictors of success for discrimination at the collegiate matriculation point. Promising students with low socio-economic status that were successfully screened by the modified admissions process were then interviewed by a committee of academic professionals, and if selected for participation in the Rising Scholars Program, provided with an annual $6,500 four-year scholarship. Students had to agree to follow the program guidelines and provide data to the researchers.

The Rising Scholars Program was designed to be a ‘high touch’ path through the undergraduate academic world that incorporated the known best practices in higher education. These activities included events designed to foster camaraderie and provide opportunities to engage with an expanded professional network. Admitted students were expected to attend an academic boot camp during the summer prior to beginning their freshman year and attend an orientation seminar for incoming students during the fall term. During the summer before their sophomore year, Rising Scholar students enroll in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation to work in a partnering faculty members’ lab assisting their graduate students and post-docs. The sophomore seminar concentrates on communication skills and career selection. Students typically conduct their own research project during the summer before their junior year, and the junior seminar shifts focus toward employability. Students experience an internship prior to their senior year to gain professional time within the workplace. The senior seminar is primarily devoted to helping students receive an offer for an entry-level professional position.

Incoming Rising Scholar students were matched with students receiving both direct engineering admits and exploratory studies admits that had similar background and academic indicators that matched the Rising Scholar’s profile. First year retention for students in engineering and the Rising Scholars program was significantly better than for exploratory studies. Those trends remained in the second year data. Rising Scholars have significantly better GPA moving into their second year compared to both engineers and exploratory studies students. The significance in GPA over engineering students continues into the second year.

The initial data collected from this program supports the operating conjecture that first generation students from low SES backgrounds can be successful in STEM fields within higher education, if they are provided with structure and counselling. Efforts are underway to finish the initial three cohorts of students and find a means to make the overall program sustainable. It seems valuable to maintain a flow of students through the program. Underclass members of the group notably comment on the confidence shown by upperclass members and the importance of having them around as role models. It would be advantageous to transition this program to a multi-university project to demonstrate the robustness of the process for these students.

Stwalley, R. M., & Stwalley, C. S., & Booth-Womack, V. L., & Baldwin, G. L., & LaRose, S. (2021, July), Using Enhanced Professional Networks to Increase Overall Student Retention Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37990

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