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You Belong Here: A Collaborative Recruitment Initiative for Future Engineers

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2021 CoNECD


Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day

Publication Date

January 24, 2021

Start Date

January 24, 2021

End Date

January 28, 2021

Conference Session

CoNECD Session : Day 3 Slot 1 Technical Session 2

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


Enrique Dominguez University of Texas at Austin

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Mr. Enrique Dominguez is the Director of the Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been Director for over 7 years and is currently the Membership Chair for the National Association for Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA). Enrique graduated from the Cockrell School of Engineering with a Civil Engineering degree and pursued industry experience for seven years where he held positions such as Project Engineer, Lead University Recruiter, Logistics Engineer, Cost Engineer and Project Manager.

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Amy Marie Beebe University of Texas at Austin

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Amy Beebe is the student program coordinator for the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin whose mission is to recruit, retain and graduate more women to advance gender equity in engineering. As a program coordinator, Amy assists in coordinating programming for current students which includes the WEP Leadership Collaborative student organizations, WEP's Peer Assistance Leaders and WEP Kinsolving Living Learning Community.

In addition to current student programming, she coordinates recruitment initiatives for WEP with collaboration from their sibling program, Equal Opportunity in Engineering, and other departments within Cockrell School of Engineering.

Amy is also an active member or officer in several campus wide committees: Cultural Awareness Committee, Academic Counselors Association, Hispanic Faculty and Staff Association, Bias Busting Team and Association of Professionals in Student Affairs.

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Abstract Title: You Belong Here: A Collaborative Recruitment Initiative for Future Engineers Key words: Race/Ethnicity, Gender, 1st Generation, Pre-college

Overview: You Belong Here: A Collaborative Recruitment Initiative for Future Engineers is a presentation that showcases a yield strategy used by an engineering college’s diversity programs in an effort to increase the matriculation of high school admitted students from underrepresented backgrounds into the engineering college. The presentation will explore the initiative’s evolution, provide an overview the programming and impact. It will also include lessons learned and future plans.

History: Since 1970, diversity programs have existed in the college of engineering with a focus to recruit, retain and graduate underrepresented students in engineering. Two programs were created to support underrepresented student populations within engineering which are identified as women, ethnic minorities (African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American and Native Hawaiian) and students with marginalized identities (i.e. first generation, low socio-economic status, etc.).

Before their establishment, there was little attention from the engineering college given to recruitment efforts for underrepresented populations. In the years following their establishment, the diversity programs initiated recruitment and yield efforts to increase the diversity within the college. With the college focusing on recruitment of high achieving students, the diversity programs would target the underrepresented populations needing attention in engineering. Efforts were made independently from each other and therefore each program would host their own recruitment events without significant collaboration. With the continued research and attention on the theory of intersectionality, two years ago, the two diversity programs collaborated to create an event that recognized the different identities that our prospective students could hold. The event formed to be “You Belong Here: Women of Color Weekend”. The joint event was designed for our prospective admitted engineering women who also hold an ethnic minority identity (such a defined above) to showcase the diversity programs’ student support initiatives. This past academic year of 2018-2019, the engineering college agreed to support a collaboration, led by the diversity programs, to solely focus on recruitment efforts of underrepresented students. The college’s involvement with this initiative elevated the level of resources and importance. This is significant because it showed that college was invested and prioritizing the recruitment of these students. This collaboration produced the “You Belong Here” recruitment events that continued to be focused on underrepresented populations with the purpose of increasing those percentages and to showcase the types of support services offered for underrepresented students. Since the college supported this initiative with more resources, the events expanded to three total “You Belong Here” recruitment events including an evolved version of the “You Belong Here: Women of Color Weekend”.

Planning and Logistics: Planning for the events began by identifying and reaffirming the mission of the initiative: increasing the yield of students who come from these historically underrepresented backgrounds. An event invitation was crafted and sent out to those who identified with one or more of those backgrounds in their university application through the university’s recruitment database. The invite creation was done between the diversity programs and the engineering college’s communications team. Two reminder emails were also created for students who had not signed-up for an event. A printed invite was also to be mailed to the family of the admitted student. Students who had registered for the event received a confirmation email of registration, a reminder to attend (with all event details) and if they attended the event, they also received a “thank you for attending” email. The “Thank You” emails also included contact information for following up if any additional questions arose. The university’s admissions office managed two parts of the process: identifying the invite pool from admitted engineering students and sending all the invitation materials (emails and letters).

Using research, best practices from our program’s experiences and feedback from current students, we created an agenda that was replicated across all three events. We started the event off with a short welcome from the college and each of the diversity programs. Following the welcomes, family members stayed in the auditorium with the admitted students being taken to another classroom. Family members had the opportunity to learn more about the various student support services, Next Steps presented by the Assistant Director of Admissions and were able to ask questions to staff and current students. Concurrently in the alternate location, admitted students were given the same opportunity to learn more about the support services, ask questions of staff and current students, as well as participate in a hands-on activity. This activity has multiple purposes: introduce the admitted students to the engineering design process, showcase the collaborative nature of engineering and begin the process of community building with their peers. Bringing family members and students back together for lunch they were able to sit at tables with current students, faculty and staff for informal conversations. After lunch, everyone was brought together for a family activity. The family activity highlighted engineering concepts, communication and the changing future of their family dynamic. Family members and students then transitioned to breakout sessions that were major specific which were held in their respective engineering buildings. All breakout sessions included current students whose majors aligned with the departmental session. This was the portion of the day that families and admitted students learned more about their specific department and major. Breakout sessions also provided time to ask questions relating to their major and take a tour of the major specific building and the engineering area of campus. The day was closed out by bringing everyone back together in the auditorium for any other questions, evaluations and a short closing statement. Staff and current students were available after the official end of the event for more informal one-on-one conversations. The full day event begins at 10am with check-in until 4:30pm.

Engineering Community Involvement: We recruited engineering student mentors from various leadership programs across the engineering college: student organizations, engineering ambassadors, department volunteers, leadership seminars, program/office assistants and personal connections. We hosted multiple one hour volunteer training sessions to discuss their responsibilities, duties, program schedule and answer any questions they might have about the event. We wanted to empower them to be authentic and open to sharing their experience of being an engineering student.

For the event to be more impactful, current students were strongly invited to participate in all parts of the events. While they assisted with the logistics, most importantly they were there to welcome guests, get them checked in and escort them to the opening session. The family session had a minimum of three students from various disciplines, years and backgrounds to help answer questions families might have from the student perspective. The student session had 5-10 student volunteers (again from various disciplines, years and backgrounds) to act as facilitators for the hands-on activity as well as answer questions from their perspectives. They were there for lunch, led the students to their respective department breakout session, participated in the session and acted as the tour guide around the engineering area. Current students also acted as facilitators for the family hands-on activity. We have 115 total student volunteers between the three events.

Not only was this a collaborative effort with current students and the diversity programs, we also had five academic departments actively participate in the events. This included leading the department breakout session, opening up labs for tours, having staff or faculty interacting with guests during lunch. Those same academic departments were also allies and advocates for the engineering college’s support and recruitment plan’s shift to the “You Belong Here” initiative and focus on the recruitment of underrepresented students. Impact: Across all three “You Belong Here” recruitment events, there were 199 admitted engineering students that registered with the following demographic breakdown: ■ 61.8% Women (123) ■ 39.7% Underrepresented Minorities-URM (79) ■ 24.6% 1st Generation (49) ■ 38.2% Men (76) ■ 23.6% Asian (47) ■ 2.0% Black/African American (4) ■ 3.0% Foreign (6) ■ 36.7% Hispanic (73) ■ 7.5% Multiracial (15) ■ 1.0% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (2) ■ 25% White (50) ■ 1% Not Reported (2) The three events reported just over 79% attendance rate [79.4% attended (158)] with the following demographic breakdown: ■ 63.9% Women (101) ■ 39.2% Underrepresented Minorities-URM (62) ■ 23.4% 1st Generation Students (37) ■ 36.1% Men (57) ■ 23.4% Asian (37) ■ 2.5% Black/African American (4) ■ 2.5% Foreign (4) ■ 35.4% Hispanic (56) ■ 6.9% Multiracial (11) ■ 1.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (2) ■ 27.2% White (43) ■ 0.6% Not Reported (1) Student participants equated just over an 84% matriculation rate into the engineering college [84.2% matriculation (133)] with the following demographic breakdown: ■ 60.9% Women (81) ■ 42.9% Underrepresented Minorities-URM (57) ■ 39.1% Men (52) ■ 27.1% Asian (36) ■ 3% Black/African American (4) ■ 2.3% Foreign (3) ■ 38.3% Hispanic (51) ■ 5.3% Multiracial (7) ■ 1.5% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (2) ■ 22.6% White (30)

Comparison: Prior to the 2018-2019 academic year, the three engineering college’s recruitment events had a total attendance of 235 participants with the following demographic breakdown: ■ 63.0% Women (148) ■ 31.5% Underrepresented Minorities-URM (74) Student participants equated just over 65% matriculation rate into the engineering college [65.1% matriculation (153)] with the following demographic breakdown: ■ 40.4% Women (95) ■ 20.4% Underrepresented Minorities-URM (48) In comparison, the three “You Belong Here” recruiting events yielded a higher Women percentage in attendance by 0.9% and a higher URM percentage by 7.8%. The “You Belong Here” recruitment events also yielded a higher matriculation rate for both: Women by 16.0%, URM by 27.1%. Moreover, there was also a higher total number of URM students that matriculated from the “You Belong Here” recruitment events (57 vs. 48).

Notable difference between the engineering college’s previous recruiting efforts and the “You Belong Here” recruitment events are as follows: ■ “You Belong Here” recruitment events planned and coordinated by the diversity programs ■ “You Belong Here” recruitment events focused only on inviting underrepresented students ■ Diversity Program staff and students had more involvement with students during the “You Belong Here” recruitment events ■ Programming and activities were more appropriate for the target audience during the “You Belong Here” recruitment events ■ “You Belong Here” recruitment events were funded by the college and not the diversity programs’ budgets

Lessons Learned: As with many new initiatives, there is a learning curve as processes and programming are refined. The biggest challenge we found with the events was communication. Admitted engineering students receive a lot of communication and invites to different on-campus events. There was confusion on which events offered what information, conflicting events and then the number of times admitted students are even able to come to campus. The other issue on communication was ensuring that the correct populations were invited to the events. We will be taking a more active role in the invite pool and messaging being sent to try to avoid some of those issues. The engineering college is also creating a centralized webpage with a list of events that can be filtered so that students can see exactly what events are available. The idea is to look like a more cohesive and collaborative college coordinating events and communication.

We will also be requesting more support and participation from other academic departments and units within the engineering college so that student can have a more comprehensive, consistent and informative visit. We anticipate that this will especially make a difference for students who aren’t able to travel to campus more than once. It will also ensure that the quality of the department sessions are more consistent across all disciplines.

Future “You Belong Here” recruitment events: The engineering college plans to keep the “You Belong Here” recruitment events for the upcoming recruitment cycle for 2020 – 2021 based on the success from this past year. We’ll be implementing the lessons learned with focus in communication and ensuring the admitted students can navigate the myriad of events they are invited to attend. As of writing this abstract, dates and initial planning for these events are underway for Spring 2020.

Dominguez, E., & Beebe, A. M. (2021, January), You Belong Here: A Collaborative Recruitment Initiative for Future Engineers Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day . 10.18260/1-2--36148

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