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Work in Progress: Participants of the Cultivate ACCESS Program

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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

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Division Technical Session 2

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Biological and Agricultural Engineering

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Rachel Ibach University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Rachel Ibach is a masters student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Applied Science program. Her assistantship project focuses on increasing participation of underrepresented groups in STEM-related agricultural career fields through a mentoring and development program that engages high school youth with undergraduate students and industry professionals.

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Jennifer Keshwani University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Jenny Keshwani is an Assistant Professor of Biological Systems Engineering and Science Literacy Specialist in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is active in promoting science and engineering education in both formal and informal settings through her research, extension, and outreach activities. Dr. Keshwani is actively engaged in several cross-disciplinary regional and national efforts related to STEM education and outreach. Most recently, she was part of a team that received NSF funding to engage youth in STEM through wearable technologies.

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Deepak R. Keshwani University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Dr. Deepak Keshwani is an associate professor of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to research in the area of bioprocess and biosystems modeling, Dr. Keshwani is engaged in teaching and advising students across two academic colleges and is involved in numerous campus-wide student success initiatives including leading a civic-engagement program for first-year students.

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Sydney E. Everhart University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Leah Sandall University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM-related agriculture (agSTEM) fields, such as agricultural engineering, agricultural technology management, and crop science. Despite support and demand by industry to increase diversity, there is a limited pool of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds to fill these positions. A group of faculty and staff from [University] received funding from the Women and Minorities in STEM program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support the effort to increase participation of women and minorities in agSTEM careers. The Cultivate ACCESS (Agricultural Career Communities to Empower Students in STEM) program was deployed in the fall of 2018 and designed to highlight a range of STEM careers in agriculture while developing employability skills identified by industry. The objective of this program is to increase diversity in agSTEM fields and provide recommendations for future mentoring programs targeting underrepresented groups.

Cultivate ACCESS engages high school students (scholars) from communities in [state] with undergraduate students (ambassadors), and industry professionals (mentors) in an online mentoring and development program during the academic year. Ambassadors and mentors are from underrepresented groups in agSTEM majors and careers. Scholars received virtual and face-to-face mentoring from ambassadors and mentors. Program topics and activities included career pathway exploration in agSTEM, employability skill development, and self-efficacy. Ambassadors enrolled in an experiential learning course focused on training in cross-age peer mentoring, diversity and inclusion, and leadership skill development. Virtual training provided to mentors equipped them with the skills necessary to be effective mentors. A website was developed to serve as a source of information on the program and agSTEM careers that is accessible past the lifetime of the project. Scholar outcomes indicated by information gathered throughout the program are increased understanding and awareness of agSTEM careers, self-efficacy, and employability skills including teamwork, communication, and leadership. Focus-group interviews with ambassadors indicated increased leadership and mentoring skill development through their participation in the program. Mentors increased their mentoring ability as a result of their interactions with the Cultivate ACCESS scholars.

The findings from this program can guide development of future mentoring programs designed to target underrepresented groups in the agSTEM fields. Youth matched with mentors from similar backgrounds more strongly identify with their mentors as a role model and are inspired to pursue careers in fields that they may not have felt confident to enter before. Development of employability skills in youth are critical components of mentoring programs as underrepresented youth have limited access to training of these skills. Cross-age mentoring using college students can significantly enhance the overall impact of youth-adult mentoring programs.

Ibach, R., & Keshwani, J., & Keshwani, D. R., & Everhart, S. E., & Sandall, L. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Participants of the Cultivate ACCESS Program Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35676

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