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WIP: Assessing Engineering State of Mind of First-Year Undergraduate African American/Black Students in Scholar Programs

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jameka Wiggins University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Jameka Wiggins is an undergraduate senior Chemical Engineering major and Entrepreneurship minor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is a member of the Center for Women in Technology and Ronald E. McNair Scholar Programs, as well as a Senator for UMBC's Chapter of The National Society of Black Engineers. Her research fields include the use additive manufacturing to create biomass containment devices and the utilization of mix-methods assessment to understand the internal and external factors that impact underrepresented populations in the engineering community.

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Jamie R. Gurganus University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Dr. Jamie Gurganus is the undergraduate program coordinator and a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department at UMBC, Director for the Center for the innovative, teaching, research and learning and she is the Associate Director of Engineering Education Initiatives at COEIT. Her research is focused on solving problems relating to educating and developing engineers, teachers, and the community at all levels (k12, undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate and faculty development). She seeks to identify best practices and develop assessments methods that assist faculty and teachers with student engagement, helping them to navigate the various pathways in STEM. A few of these key areas include engineering identity and mindsets, first year experiences in engineering, integrating service learning into the engineering classroom, implementing new instructional methodologies, and design optimization using additive manufacturing. Dr. Gurganus collaborates with a number of industry partners and consults throughout Maryland in STEM education initiatives. In 2019, Dr. Gurganus received the Northern Maryland Technology Council Leader Award in STEM education. She has written curricula and published a number of works in engineering education, including a Statics workbook for undergraduate engineering students. She is the Director of Innovation Programs and Operations for the non-profit research collaborative, Advancing Engineering Excellence in P-12 Engineering Education. Dr. Gurganus teaches several first and second year Mechanical Engineering classes along with the Mechanical Engineering Senior Capstone design course for UMBC.

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In the United States there continues to be a “persistent underrepresentation of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students among those who complete an undergraduate degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)” (Holcombe & Kezar, 2019). Research shows there are various internal and external influences that contribute to student’s enrollment and retention in engineering programs, especially minority engineering students. As a result, these factors can impact a student’s engineering mindset and, in turn, retention in a program. In this work-in-progress study, an examination of first year African American/Black undergraduate students' state of mind were evaluated at a mid-size university over the course of the student’s first, Fall 2020, semester. Student’s in this population are currently enrolled in engineering 101, virtually, their first course in engineering. Additionally, the mid-sized university houses well-known scholar programs that support a 15% of the first-year engineering students. Through these programs, students receive various guidance and support to students throughout their tenure at the university.

Using a mix-method assessment, students were initially asked to participate in the Engineering State of Mind Instrument (ESMI), a recently tested and developed tool, at the mid-size university. The ESMI provides immediate evaluation to the student, assisting them in understanding their attitudes, perceptions, motivations and self-efficacy in pursuing an engineering degree. Students are able to use the results and recommended interventions to improve any mindset deficiencies. African American/Black students, who participated in the instrument, were asked to engage in a follow-up interview providing a more detail of their current mindset about the engineering field. Additionally, scholar affiliated, and non-programmed students were classified for further comparison of the programmatic impact. While conducting the interview, a series of questions were included regarding the intersection between virtual learning and belonging within the engineering community.

At the end of the Fall semester, this data will be analyzed to find significant correlations and themes regarding a student's engineering state of mind, motivation to persist through a program, and belonging within the engineering community. This will also highlight the impact of the current virtual learning environment. The preliminary data in research will be used to help inform the impact and role that scholar programs have on African American students in their first year of engineering.

Wiggins, J., & Gurganus, J. R. (2021, July), WIP: Assessing Engineering State of Mind of First-Year Undergraduate African American/Black Students in Scholar Programs Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38071

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