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Work in Progress: A Holistic Approach to the First-year Engineering Experience

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Cornucopia #1

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Kevin J. Lindsay University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Kevin J. Lindsay
Freshman Lecturer and Advisor; MAPS Program Director

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 1999
M.S. in Physics, Clemson University, 2003
MBA, Loyola University in Maryland, 2010

I came to UNC Charlotte's William States Lee College of Engineering from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. My 10 years of experience at STScI culminated in my final duties as a Senior Research and Instrument Analyst, and were spent working on astrophysics research, astronomical data analysis, and space-based instrumentation characterization, calibration, and experimentation. While at STScI I focused the majority of my efforts as a member of the development team for the Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA), as a member of the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) pipeline and calibration teams, and as a member of the Operations Detector Laboratory (ODL), where I worked on the characterization of spaced-based CCD detectors. Now at UNC Charlotte, I have found new passion in the education, advising, and mentoring of undergraduate engineering students.

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Meg Harkins University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Meg Harkins is an Associate Professor of Practice, Freshman Engineering Advisor and Director of the Engineering Freshman Learning Community at UNC Charlotte's William States Lee College of Engineering. She is a licensed Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania with a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering and a Masters of Science in Environmental Science both from Drexel University.

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Rachael Ohu University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Sherman Mumford University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Sherman Mumford is a freshman academic advisor and lecturer in the Lee College of Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He serves as Associate Director of Engage ME!, a multicultural engineers' mentoring and support program for underrepresented students majoring in engineering technology and engineering disciplines.

Mr. Mumford, is an active member in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), is a life member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), has served in local and regional volunteer leadership roles in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE). He regularly advocates for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by serving on advisory boards, performing outreach and volunteering with youth organizations.

Mr. Mumford earned his bachelor's degree in Engineering Technology from UNC Charlotte, where he was a Ronald McNair Scholar; and earned his master’s degree in Engineering Management from Eastern Michigan University. Prior to employment in higher education, Mr. Mumford worked in manufacturing operations and integrated product development within the commercial vehicles and aerospace and defense industries for three Fortune 500 Companies. His professional achievements include being certified as a manufacturing engineer, quality engineer and enterprise integrator. He has also received global quality achievement awards for process innovation and project execution.

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Linda A. Thurman University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Ms. Thurman, a Chicago native, earned her B.S. in Psychology from Western Illinois University and her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Roosevelt University. Moving to Charlotte in 1995, Ms. Thurman continued to work in the IT and Engineering recruiting field and then made a career change in 1999 to work in Higher Ed. She has worked for over 20 years at UNC Charlotte and currently serves as the Director for Student Professional Development and Employer Relations for the William States Lee College of Engineering. In March 2010, Ms. Thurman was appointed by the governor (and reappointed in 2015) to serve on the NC Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors as the public member and her term expired Dec. 2019. She was the first public member to serve as the NC board chair (2018) . She is also heavily involved as an ASEE-CIPD Board member and in 2019 she was elected to be CIEC Treasurer and the Assistant PIC V. Ms. Thurman is also member of the WiMfg national and NC Chapter and SoACE and NCACE.

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This is a Work in Progress paper discussing the underlying student support structure to develop a holistic approach to the first-year engineering experience. The X College of Engineering at X University maintains five departments with seven undergraduate degree programs. Within the College of Engineering, the primary goals of the first-year student-focused Office of Student Development and Success (OSDS) is to improve retention and graduation rates by successfully guiding new students through the transition experienced in their first year. OSDS works to connect and immerse first-year students into the College of Engineering, and X University as a whole, in pursuit of achieving these goals. Faculty and staff in OSDS have observed that the development of personal connections for new students within their new academic environment and home, can significantly ease their transition, while providing numerous opportunities to help them establish personal independence. Independence develops as first-year students’ step through the process of creating personalized support structures away from home. An apparent high level of intrinsic motivation to develop a personalized support structure forges academic ownership for a student, and works to establish a sense of pride for their choice of academic path and future profession. A student’s willingness to adopt and follow this process through their first year, in many cases, will determine whether they are able to successfully transition and become independent learners, problem solvers, and young professionals within this unfamiliar context.

For the fall 2019 semester, approximately 27% of first-year students in the College of Engineering were non-Caucasian, as compared to an average 39% for all engineering program enrollment in the United States. Additionally, for the fall 2019 semester, only 13% of first-year students in the College of Engineering were women, as compared to an average 26% for all engineering program enrollment in the United States (Roy, Joseph 2018, 48). A separate aspect of our changing first-year students, is the rising number of Early College and Dual Enrolled students in the past several years. These numeric discrepancies, the increase in variability of new student higher education experience, and the goals of the College of Engineering, have led to the creation of new first-year student support programs, and an evolving partnership with existing first-year student support programs, within OSDS, to work toward optimizing student outreach, level of community connection, and ease of transition. The primary goal of this outreach effort is to maximize inclusivity and connection by providing a comprehensive set of resources for all students in order to create an academic environment conducive to their successful transition into the College of Engineering, and the larger X University communities.

A concerted effort by all first-year student support programs, and OSDS supported courses, to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented minorities and women in the College of Engineering is currently underway. This will be achieved by providing targeted opportunities for new students to join pre-established communities, connecting students to activities and events, fostering academic and professional development, and providing networking opportunities to develop relationships with their peers, professors, advisors, and alumni mentors. The efforts to reach out to students to build the necessary support framework is approached from multiple fronts by OSDS. Engagement, peer and professional mentoring, advising, residential programming, and academic and professional development, combine to provide a multifaceted approach to new student transition, and academic and professional success. The efforts of OSDS have been met with both successes and challenges, and continue to strive for improvement. In the pursuit of continuous improvement, with a focus on increased diversity, OSDS seeks to learn and adopt new strategies and methodologies as we work to adapt to the regularly evolving cohorts of new students in the College of Engineering at X University.

Roy, Joseph. 2018. “Engineering by the Numbers.” Accessed September 13, 2019. Statistics-UPDATED-15-July-2019.pdf.

Lindsay, K. J., & Harkins, M., & Ohu, R., & Mumford, S., & Thurman, L. A. (2020, June), Work in Progress: A Holistic Approach to the First-year Engineering Experience Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35594

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