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Title: An Integrated Supplemental Program to Enhance the First-year Engineering Experience
Student retention in STEM disciplines, especially engineering, continues to be a challenge for higher education institutions. Poor retention rates have been attributed to academic and institutional isolation, exclusion from social and professional networks, unsupportive peer and family communities, a lack of knowledge about the academic community and financial obstacles. The importance of retention in engineering has attracted increasing attention from many stakeholders in academia including faculty, staff, administrators and students. Its significance goes beyond the benefits for the academic institutions to encompass national concerns. At a large land-grant university in the mid-Atlantic region, between 2003 and 2012, an average thirty percent of first-year engineering students left engineering before their second year. A three-year study (2007-2010) done to gain insight into this attrition rate, showed that students mainly left because of low self-efficacy, lack of interest in and knowledge about engineering and the institution, disconnection from the engineering profession and academic difficulty. To address these issues, an integrated supplemental program was implemented in the first-year engineering program. Students must be in first-time, first-year standing to enroll in the program, which includes a professional development and academic success course beginning with a pre-fall bridge component. The program also provides direct pathways to academic enrichment activities such as undergraduate research. It helps students to develop strategies for academic success, explore engineering careers and start building a professional network through a multi-level peer, faculty and alumni mentoring system. Students are systematically and deliberately immersed in curricular and co-curricular activities with their peer, faculty and alumni mentors. The program was piloted with a NASA Space Grant in 2012 and funded by NSF in 2016. The goal of this evidence-based practice paper is to share the challenges, logistics and results of the implementation of this program in our standard first-year engineering experience.  more » « less
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ASEE Annual Conference proceedings
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National Science Foundation
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