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Title: Identifying NSF S-STEM-sponsored program activities that have a positive impact on mechanical engineering S-STEM scholars
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127th Annual ASEE Conference
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Since 2009, the mechanical engineering (ME) scholarship-science technology engineering and mathematics (S-STEM) Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) has provided financial support and program activities to ME undergraduate students aiming at improving their retention and graduation rates. The objective of this study is to identify program activities that were most effective to help students for improvements. Current ME S-STEM scholars were asked to complete a survey that measures their scientific efficacy, engineering identity, expectations, integration, and sense of belonging, as well as how program activities impact their attitudes and perceptions. Analyses of 36 collected surveys showedmore »that scholars reported high levels of engineering identity, expectations, and sense of belonging. However, further improvements were needed to help students in achieving scientific efficacy and academic integration into the program. Results demonstrated that pro-active mentoring was the most effective method contributing to positive attitudes and perceptions. The implemented S-STEM research-related activities and internship were viewed favorably by the scholars in helping them establish their scientific efficacy and engineering identity, and understand their expectations and goals. Community building activities were considered helpful for them to integrate into campus life and improve their sense of belonging to the campus and program. Scholars identified mentoring, research related activities, internships, and social interaction with faculty and their peers as important factors for their retention and graduation. Although the sample size was small in the study, we believe that the cost-effective activities identified could be adopted by other institutions to further improve students' retention and graduation rates in engineering programs.« less
  2. An engineering leadership development program (LDP) at a major midwestern university has received NSF S STEM grant support for the past 10 years and has achieved higher and faster time to graduation rate for engineering transfer students in a peer comparison study ( DeRuntz 2019) ( DeRuntz, et. al 2017) (Palmer, et. al. 2016) ( Kowalchuk , et. al 2013). Through the award of a Track 2 S STEM three years ago, the LDP has now expanded into the STEM majors at the university and has made an important discovery regarding the evolution of Leadership Knowledge among some ofmore »the STEM leaders. The participants in the LDP program have shown statistically significant changes on Leadership Self Efficacy Survey ( Bobbio , Manganelli , 2009) and the Motivation to Lead Survey (Chan, Drasgow, 2001) when compared to their peers. We noticed an apparent regression in the Leadership Knowledge data scores. However, upon further examination there appeared to be a response shift bias in these results ( Rohs 1999). In other words, participants rated themselves higher on the pre test and then lower on the post test; even though they had made significant gains as measured in the other program data collected by the external evaluator. This conclusion is further confirmed by interactions and observations recorded by the program Co PIs, coordinator, coaches, and senior leadership.« less
  3. Background & Program Description: The link between student engagement and retention is well-established in the education literature. As a result, many colleges have developed first-year experience programs to engage students in early technical work and to promote community-building. However, many of these student success programs require participation in extracurricular activities, which require time outside of class. Yet time for extracurricular activities is a luxury that many students of low socioeconomic status (SES) cannot afford due to family or work obligations. The Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides crucial financial support to high-achieving low-SES STEMmore »students. The S-STEM scholarships give students the option to work less or not at all. The intended result is that students regain the time afforded to their more privileged peers, thereby also giving them the opportunity to more effectively engage with their institution, studies, and peers. The Endeavour Program is a two-year program that incorporates the S-STEM financial support into a multi-faceted and multi-college program in STEM designed to increase the level of student engagement in school. The scholars, who are recruited from three colleges, take classes together, work on hands-on team projects, attend professional and personal development events, participate in outreach events, and conduct research with faculty mentors. Over the course of the two-year program, four dimensions of student engagement (academic, behavioral, cognitive, and affective) are tracked to determine the appropriateness of using these engagement levels as predictors of success. Results: Two cohorts of 20 students were recruited in the fall of 2017 and in the fall of 2018. The first cohort completed the two-year program in the spring of 2020, and the second cohort began the second year of the program in the fall of 2020. No third cohort was recruited in 2020 due the Covid19 pandemic. The third and fourth cohorts will now enter the program in the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2022 respectively. Overall, the results of the Endeavour Program have been positive. The final retention outcome for the first cohort (the only cohort to complete the program thus far) was 85% (17/20). Retention for the second cohort is currently at 100% (20/20). Initial results show that the S-STEM scholars are performing academically as well as their peers who do not share the same risk factors. In addition, the number of completed hours is also on par with their peers. However, the most significant gains were observed in the qualitative data. Students expressed fears and anxieties about the high school to college transition and reported that the guidance provided and the community formed through the Endeavour Program alleviated many of those negative emotions. The full paper shows student engagement data obtained over time for the first and second cohorts as well as lessons learned and directions for future work. Also, examples of advising charts created in an engagement data dashboard show how the quantitative engagement data has been compiled and organized to show early warning signs for current and future cohorts.« less