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January 24, 2021
January 24, 2021
January 28, 2021
Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions
For many students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds a college degree can provide a pathway to upward mobility, particularly in a lucrative field like engineering. However, as several studies have shown, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are underrepresented in engineering and face significant barriers to degree completion , . At the University of Washington (UW), the Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) in Engineering program provides highly motivated students from low-income backgrounds and underserved high schools in Washington with holistic support including intrusive advising and specialized first-year curriculum designed to build learning skills and strengthen academic preparation. STARS students from the first six cohorts have shown that with intensive support, students who may have otherwise been excluded from engineering can excel and graduate. STARS has also contributed to increased diversity in the UW College of engineering; to date, half of the STARS students are from minoritized racial/ethnic groups, over two-thirds are first generation college students, over 40% are women, and 85% hold Pell Grants. The success of the STARS program has attracted the attention of policymakers both at the UW and statewide. The Redshirt in Engineering model is also becoming an approach for increasing access and equity in engineering nationwide. As the model gains traction and there is pressure to expand the program, it is important to understand which students are best served by STARS.
This mixed-methods study utilizes academic data from 16,164 engineering students who enrolled at the UW between 2009 and 2018 (including 211 STARS students), and an in-depth qualitative case study of one STARS cohort. The study finds that, overall, STARS students performed better in Calculus I and Calculus II and were retained in engineering at higher rates than would be predicted based on their individual, academic, and high school characteristics. While STARS students performed better than expected on the whole, there was a great deal of variation in the residuals (the difference between observed and predicted course grades). Our quantitative findings suggest that students who appear to benefit most from the STARS program are students with low academic admissions and standardized test scores, students from groups ethnically/racially minoritized in engineering, students who are the first in their family to attend a 4-year university, men, and students from urban areas. Qualitative findings suggest that these students benefit from the strong bonds formed with other STARS students and the extra academic support and problem solving skills developed through the program.
Knaphus-Soran, E., & Pan, T. D., & Riskin, E. A., & Cunningham, S., & Tanguay, S. K., & Litzler, E. (2021, January), Who Benefits Most from a Holistic Student Support Program in Engineering? Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day . https://peer.asee.org/36141
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