skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 25, 2024

Title: Board 314: Implementing the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Model at a Public Urban Research University in the Southeastern United States
Underproduction, low retention, and lack of diversity in STEM disciplines, especially engineering, are significant challenges nationally, but are particularly acute in regions, both urban and rural, where educational access is limited. Leveraging our institutional location at a public urban research university in a city marked by its connection to its rural surroundings, we seek to address these challenges by implementing the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) model at our university with the support of an NSF IUSE grant. The VIP model is based on active learning and enables tiered mentoring from students at all academic years, thereby providing the opportunity of role modeling from upper-level undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty. In addition, programs based on the VIP model are accessible to all students (not just high performing students) and provide a meaningful networking environment. We use our implementation of the VIP model to foster STEM identity growth and a sense of belonging, while increasing and celebrating diversity in engineering and other STEM disciplines. Our VIP program leverages best practices from the well-established VIP model and adapts it to address unique aspects of our university’s community and interests. Specifically, the program includes freshmen and will also serve as a recruitment tool for local community college students. It employs a tiered mentoring approach and activities that prepare students for research and foster networking. The long-term goal of the VIP experience is to create a research culture and community in engineering and eventually across STEM disciplines that is inclusive and supportive of students from diverse backgrounds. An additional focus is to showcase the value of diversity in research and innovation through the program. Both the research culture and increased acknowledgement of the value of diversity are designed to enhance students’ STEM identity, which is important for retention in the major and career. The purpose of this paper is to report on the planning and launch of our VIP program in Fall 2022, focusing on the PIs’ experiences implementing the program and on our first cohort’s (N = 12; 7 women; 4 Black/African American; 2 Hispanic) experiences participating in the program during their first semester. Specifically, this paper will describe the challenges and opportunities of implementing the VIP program and how the VIP model has been adapted to align with unique aspects of our institution and student body. We will also report preliminary analyses of student journal data collected from the first cohort throughout the Fall semester, where students described their initial expectations/hopes and concerns for the semester; their activities and emotional responses during the semester; and finally, their reflections on their experiences, positive or negative, throughout the semester. The paper will conclude by offering lessons learned from the first year of this project as well as directions for moving forward.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference exposition
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. With a project built on the Model of Co-Curricular Support for Undergraduate Engineering Students, in collaboration with three partnering community colleges was awarded a Multi-Institutional Track 3 S-STEM Grant in January 2020. The intention of the project was to recruit 2 cohorts of scholars with 40 students each. One cohort was to start their pursuit of an engineering degree in Fall 2020 and the other in Fall 2021. Each cohort was to be comprised of 20 students who started at as freshmen and 20 students who intended to get an associate’s degree from one of the partnering community colleges and transfer to a university to complete the BS in engineering. Despite some early challenges in recruiting students and implementing planned programs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, three cohorts of low-income students have been recruited and supported by scholarships valued at up to $10,000 per year. In addition to scholarship support, various other support mechanisms have been implemented including a week-long summer bridge program for incoming students, a peer mentoring program, a textbook lending library, faculty mentoring, and various collaborative programs involving career speakers, design challenges, and professional development opportunities. With the first cohort of students now entering their senior year and several community college students having already transferred to the university, this paper discusses the recruitment and retention of scholars, details of program activities, and the progress scholars have made towards an engineering degree. This paper also draws comparisons between the scholar cohorts and all students entering the engineering program in the same semester in order to identify differences in GPA and retention. 
    more » « less
  2. Educating Engineering Students Innovatively (EESI, pronounced "easy") is a student support program for sophomores to seniors enrolled in an engineering major offered at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. The program is designed to: (1) foster a sense of community, (2) improve students’ engineering skill sets, and (3) provide each student with their direct path of interest from college to the STEM workforce. Universities spend much effort to provide student support programs for first-year students, such as summer bridge programs. However, sometimes upper-level students are not offered the same level of support and can fall off the STEM pathway. Introducing experiential learning experiences centered on the safe space (or community) of students provides a model to address underrepresentation in the STEM workforce and graduate school. This case study of an experiential learning program will provide an option for universities to consider underrepresented minority upperclassmen retention methods. We will present data for students enrolled in an engineering major between 2018-2021, considering students' gender, first-generation, and financial status. This paper will report the results of four (4) different cohorts of EESI Scholars who completed at least one semester in the student support program. We compare the retention rates, persistence, and academic performance of EESI Scholars compared with students that did not participate in the student support program as one measure of the program's success. Then we provide the best practices of the experiential learning program that led to students' persistence at ***** University. This paper could assist other colleges that would like to ensure Black students, who have been historically underrepresented in STEM, persistence in their engineering programs. 
    more » « less
  3. 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
  4. Building on prior studies that show a sense of belonging and community bolster student success, we developed a pilot program for computer engineering (CpE) and computer science (CS) undergraduates and their families that focused on building a sense of belonging and community supported by co-curricular and socioeconomic scaffolding. As a dually designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) – two types of federally designated Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) – with 55% of our undergraduates being first-generation students, we aimed to demonstrate the importance of these principles for underrepresented and first-generation students. Using a student cohort model (for each incoming group of students) and also providing supports to build community across cohorts as well as including students’ families in their college experiences, our program aimed to increase student satisfaction and academic success. We recruited two cohorts of nine incoming students each across two years, 2019 and 2020; 69% of participants were from underrepresented racial or minority groups and 33% were women. Each participant was awarded an annual scholarship and given co-curricular support including peer and faculty mentoring, a dedicated cohort space for studying and gathering, monthly co-curricular activities, enhanced tutoring, and summer bridge and orientation programs. Students’ families were also included in the orientation and semi-annual meetings. The program has resulted in students exceeding the retention rates of their comparison groups, which were undergraduates majoring in CpE and CS who entered college in the same semester as the cohorts; first- and second-year retention rates for participants were 83% (compared to 72%) and 67% (compared to 57%). The GPAs of participants were 0.35 points higher on average than the comparison group and, most notably, participants completed 50% more credits than their comparison groups, on average. In addition, 9 of the 18 scholars (all of the students who wanted to participate) engaged in summer research or internships. In combination, the cohort building, inclusion of families, financial literacy education and support, and formal and informal peer and faculty mentoring have correlated with increased academic success. The cohorts are finishing their programs in Spring 2023 and Spring 2024, but data up to this point already show increases in GPA, course completion, and retention and graduation rates, with three students having already graduated early, within three and a half years. The findings from this study are now being used to expand the successful parts of the program and inform university initiatives, with the PI serving on campus-wide STEM pipeline committee aiming to recruit, retain, and support more STEM students at the institution. 
    more » « less
  5. Achieving Change in our Communities for Equity and Student Success (ACCESS) in STEM at the University of Washington Tacoma started as a Track 1 S-STEM program in 2018 and has supported 69 students to date. This year we received Track 2 funding and welcomed our fifth cohort to campus, with funding to support ~32 additional students through 2026. University of Washington Tacoma is an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution (AANAPISI), and we serve a high proportion of racial minority and first generation college students. Our ACCESS scholars are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics, Environmental Science, Biomedical Sciences, Information Technology, Computer Science and Systems, Computer Engineering and Systems, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil Engineering, with Computer Science and Engineering representing over 60% of ACCESS scholars to date. First-time college students and first-year transfer students receive full scholarships for their first two years, and partial scholarships for their third and fourth years. The project includes an optional Early Fall Math course to enhance entry into STEM majors, and participants are able to engage in a Research Experience or project-based Introduction to Engineering course in their first year. Coupled with individual faculty mentoring and an on-campus STEM living learning community, the quarterly Success in STEM seminar course helps scholars form a cohesive community through group mentoring, as well as develop a sense of belonging, identity, and empowerment to transform the culture of STEM. This program is distinguished by its focus on pre-STEM majors in their first and second years on campus, and includes mentor training for ~30-40 faculty in teaching and mentoring diverse student populations, thus impacting all students in our majors. Our goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of a program that focuses on the first two years of college and provides financial support, courses to introduce students to research and project-based engineering, and intensive mentoring in increasing retention and academic success for Computer Science and Engineering (CS+E) students, and whether this program helps to close equity gaps for CS+E students who are low socioeconomic status (SES), underrepresented minorities (URMs), female, and/or first generation in college (First Gen) students. We compared our student scholars to a comparison group of students who met eligibility requirements but did not participate in the program. Program scholars had higher first and second year retention, and had significantly higher GPAs. The pandemic resulted in significant social, emotional, and economic stresses for our program scholars, which may have heightened the impact of the ACCESS in STEM program. 
    more » « less