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  1. PEARLS is a structured scholarship program designed to mitigate the economic hardship associated with the cost of attendance (COA). The main goal of the program is to increase the retention and success of low-income, academically talented students (LIATS) in engineering programs at a Hispanic institution. We structured students' interventions in five stages: LIATS Background Experiences, Belonging, Formative, Growth, and Graduate Development. This full paper presents the program evaluation results that combine social cognitive career theory and attrition mitigation elements. Specifically, we conducted a formative evaluation approach guided by the following question: What were the strengths and weaknesses of PEARLS according to students and mentors? A total of 92 LIATS (40 females and 52 males) met the eligibility criteria and the selection process established by the Executive Board. Overall, 78% of student participants voluntarily completed the electronic self-report questionnaires. Also, we assigned students under the supervision of eight mentors. In terms of their mentoring process, participant students reported an overall excellent opinion about their mentors and the mentoring process provided through the program. They expressed to be very satisfied with their relationship with their mentor regarding communication, connection, professionalism, and encouragement. Few students indicated weaknesses in their mentor, including poor accessibilitymore »due to lack of time, feeling intimidated by the mentor, and inadequate counseling. From the mentors’ perspective, it was perceived that their tasks and responsibilities aligned with their expectations. We noticed a relationship between what mentors perceived as their duties and what mentees identified as strengths of the mentoring program. For instance, their commitment to serve as a student mentor by offering academic counseling, encouragement, recommendations for COOP and research experiences, and setting career goals has resulted positive to establish a good relationship with the mentee. Finally, we concluded that both students and mentors felt satisfied with their involvement in the program. Similarly, mentors agreed that the time and commitment required to fulfill the responsibilities in the program are limited due to other obligations, such as teaching, research, and service commitments. This situation reflects on the mentees who expressed concern about the time availability of their mentors due to other professional obligations. Regardless, we conclude that the goal of the mentoring program proposed to promote a sense of belonging in mentees during their years of study was accomplished.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 23, 2023
  2. This paper assesses the effectiveness of an intervention model aimed at propelling low-income, academically talented (LIAT) engineering students in a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS) into actions, immersing them into real-life contexts. The model, named the LIAT College Access and Success model (L-CAS), integrates elements from Lent’s Social Cognitive Career Theory and Tinto’s Departure model in a framework provided by a structured scholarship program designed to mitigate the economic hardship of students while also providing a multistage intervention plan to improve their success metrics. In this paper, we revisit the theoretical foundations of the L-CAS model and the academic setting where it was implemented to look at the data acquired throughout its application during three years on a pilot group of 92 students. We assess the model effectiveness for springing LIATS into actions leading to their success while reflecting on the results obtained so far. We also discuss opportunities for improvements and the projections for a scaled porting of the model to a campus-wide level.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 23, 2023
  3. Natural disasters, such as 2017 hurricanes Irma and María, the 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, affect students in many aspects including economic, socio-emotional, and academic performance progress. To ensure that students can cope with the aftermath of such searing events, it is necessary to develop initiatives that address these three aspects. Satisfying the financial need is essential, but a long-term solution is mandatory. Hence, providing socio-emotional and academic support and cultivating a sense of purpose are critical to prevent attrition. To secure continued STEM success among students affected by natural disasters, the National Science Foundation has funded several projects at the University of Puerto Rico, a Hispanic Serving Institution. This manuscript presents four NSF-funded projects sharing the common goal of providing support to STEM students to ensure that they succeed despite the said challenges. The first project, titled Nanotechnology Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Sustainability Application, leans heavily on research teams dedicated to design new Nanotechnology platforms to address biomedical and environmental challenges and simultaneously trains a new generation of nanoengineers and nanoscientists throughout the educational echelon starting from public intermediate schools through doctoral programs. The second project, entitled Ecosystem to Expand Capabilities and Opportunitiesmore »for STEM-Scholars (EECOS), developed an integrated framework that provides support to 62 low-income, talented, STEM students who were severely affected by Hurricane María and 2019-2020 earthquakes (58 undergraduate and 4 graduate). The project provided participants with financial, academic, socio-emotional, and career motivation support needed to complete their programs. The third project, Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS) addresses college access and economic hardships of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS). It aims at increasing the retention and academic success of talented engineering students coming from economically disadvantaged families. The fourth project, Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP), has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum to educate cadres of Hispanic students on infrastructure resilience to temper and to overcome the effects of such natural disasters. Three campuses of this institution system collaborate in this interdisciplinary undertaking. Participating students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, architecture, and surveying who take the entailed courses together and participate in co-curricular activities (both online and in-person through site visits). The new curricular endeavor prepares them to design infrastructure that can withstand the impact of natural events. The expect outcome is to form cohorts of graduates ready to take on real-life infrastructure failures caused by disasters and provide them with an edge in their future professions. The present work provides a range of scalable and portable strategies that universities with underrepresented minorities in STEM programs could deploy to address the immediate and continued needs of students affected by natural disasters to secure academic success. These strategies can contribute to the development of professionals with the skills and experience to deal with severe circumstances such as those effected by natural disasters as well as the preparation to solve infrastructure challenges.« less
  4. Natural disasters, such as 2017 hurricanes Irma and María, the 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, affect students in many aspects including economic, socio-emotional, and academic performance progress. To ensure that students can cope with the aftermath of such searing events, it is necessary to develop initiatives that address these three aspects. Satisfying the financial need is essential, but a long-term solution is mandatory. Hence, providing socio-emotional and academic support and cultivating a sense of purpose are critical to prevent attrition. To secure continued STEM success among students affected by natural disasters, the National Science Foundation has funded several projects at the University of Puerto Rico, a Hispanic Serving Institution. This manuscript presents four NSF-funded projects sharing the common goal of providing support to STEM students to ensure that they succeed despite the said challenges. The first project, titled Nanotechnology Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Sustainability Application, leans heavily on research teams dedicated to design new Nanotechnology platforms to address biomedical and environmental challenges and simultaneously trains a new generation of nanoengineers and nanoscientists throughout the educational echelon starting from public intermediate schools through doctoral programs. The second project, entitled Ecosystem to Expand Capabilities and Opportunitiesmore »for STEM-Scholars (EECOS), developed an integrated framework that provides support to 62 low-income, talented, STEM students who were severely affected by Hurricane María and 2019-2020 earthquakes (58 undergraduate and 4 graduate). The project provided participants with financial, academic, socio-emotional, and career motivation support needed to complete their programs. The third project, Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS) addresses college access and economic hardships of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS). It aims at increasing the retention and academic success of talented engineering students coming from economically disadvantaged families. The fourth project, Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP), has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum to educate cadres of Hispanic students on infrastructure resilience to temper and to overcome the effects of such natural disasters. Three campuses of this institution system collaborate in this interdisciplinary undertaking. Participating students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, architecture, and surveying who take the entailed courses together and participate in co-curricular activities (both online and in-person through site visits). The new curricular endeavor prepares them to design infrastructure that can withstand the impact of natural events. The expect outcome is to form cohorts of graduates ready to take on real-life infrastructure failures caused by disasters and provide them with an edge in their future professions. The present work provides a range of scalable and portable strategies that universities with underrepresented minorities in STEM programs could deploy to address the immediate and continued needs of students affected by natural disasters to secure academic success. These strategies can contribute to the development of professionals with the skills and experience to deal with severe circumstances such as those effected by natural disasters as well as the preparation to solve infrastructure challenges.« less
  5. This work in progress presents the development and implementation of an Individual Development Plan (IDP) for undergraduate and first-year master’s engineering students. The IDP was designed and tailored as one of several strategies to increase retention and graduation rates for engineering students participating in the Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS). This program provides scholarships to low income, academically talented students (LIATS), and promotes their academic success and on-time graduation. We show how the IDPs, paired with a faculty mentoring component are able to produce a powerful mechanism to boost LIATS actions, propelling them to become highly competitive engineering students.
  6. The devastation caused by recent natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes, has increased awareness regarding the importance of providing interdisciplinary solutions to complex infrastructure challenges. In October 2018, the University of Puerto Rico received a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) collaborative award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop an integrated curriculum on resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The project titled “Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP) aims to educate future environmental designers and engineers to design and build a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure for Puerto Rico. This paper presents the design, initial implementation, and assessment of a curriculum encompassing synergistic interactions among these four domains: integrated project delivery, user-centered design, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and sustainability and resiliency. The project seeks to foster interdisciplinary problem-solving skills involving architects, engineers and construction managers, in order to better prepare them to face and provide solutions to minimize the impact of extreme natural environment events on infrastructure. The new curriculum stresses on problem-settings, the role that participants have on defining the characteristics of the problems that have to be solved, learning in action, reflecting on the process, and communication between the different stakeholders. This multisite and interdisciplinary program providesmore »students with the necessary support, knowledge, and skills necessary to design and build resilient and sustainable infrastructure. This instructional endeavor consists of four courses designed to reduce gradually the difference between what students are able to accomplish with support structures and what students are able to accomplish on their own. To maximize and enhance the educational experience, the program blends a technology-infused classroom learning with broad co-curricular opportunities such as site visits, undergraduate research, and internships. As students advance in the program, they will be exposed and required to perform increasingly complex tasks. During the first year of the program, the following outcomes were achieved: 1) implementation of the faculty teamwork process to develop courses and analyze cases from an interdisciplinary perspective, 2) development and approval of an interdisciplinary curriculum on resilient and sustainable infrastructure, 3) development of case studies on situations associated with disaster and interdisciplinary responses, 4) development of a case study database, 5) establishment of an Advisory Board with government agency representatives and faculty, and 6) recruitment and enrollment of 30 students as the first RISE-UP cohort. In summary, the body of knowledge acquired from this project can serve as a model that can be replicated to develop and enhance academic programs at other institutions.« less
  7. This work in progress describes the overall initiative in the program for engineering access, retention, and low-income-student success. It discusses the program structure, implementation of activities, outcomes for the first of five years of project, and reflections on our initial findings.
  8. This paper describes findings on interviews conducted to Hispanic engineering students interested in participating in an S-STEM fellowship program at our institution. The program seeks to increase the retention, persistence, and success of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS) at the College of Engineering (CoE). Specifically, this program integrates elements from Lent’s et al. Social Cognitive Career Theory and Tinto’s Departure Model in conjunction with a scholarship program to establish an intervention model to be further institutionalized at the CoE, if proven to be effective. Specifically, this paper focuses on findings during the recruitment and selection process. An exploratory study was conducted guided by the following research question: What are the success expectations of LIATS participating on the proposed fellowship program?
  9. This work in progress explores the impact of activities developed to improve students’ persistence in engineering undergraduate programs as part of a five-year NSF grant. The Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS), has been running for one year in the College of Engineering (CoE) in our institution attempting to increase persistence, retention and graduation rates, and professional success of low-income, academically talented students (LIATS). This paper describes the design of a novel engineering learning community (ELC) introduced as part of the PEARLS project interventions. The ELC is fostered through activities included in a course designed for PEARLS first-year students. During the course, first-year and senior students engaged in different ways: through senior design and capstone projects, peer demonstrations of team projects, and lab visits. We discuss the course structure, activities, and early findings of its implementation.
  10. After a natural disaster, multiple disciplines need to come together to rebuild the damaged infrastructure using new paradigms. For instance, urgent restoration of services demand to abridge the projects’ schedule and provide innovative solutions, thus making collaboration and integration essential for the project’s success. Commonly, the academic preparation of scholars on infrastructure-related disciplines takes place in isolated professional domains, rarely tackling interdisciplinary problems and/or learn from the systematic research of previous experiences. In Puerto Rico, the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has heightened awareness regarding the education on infrastructure-related disciplines to provide transdisciplinary solutions to pertinent complex challenges. This taxing context compels the academia to train a new cadre of professionals properly prepared in those STEM disciplines. Further, current public awareness of the vulnerability of the existing infrastructure creates an opportunity to recruit and prepare students to become those much-needed professionals. The present work offers the conceptual framework of a collaborative effort among Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) to develop an interdisciplinary program in resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The framework includes the development of transformational pedagogic interventions and changes that will challenge the disciplinary splits among AEC. The framework targets values and skills for inter and transdisciplinary problem solving,more »as well as helps smooth the transition from academic education to professional practice. To implement the initiative, the project created a collaborative platform among three campuses of the University of Puerto Rico System. Each of these campuses offers a different educational component relevant to the enriching educational initiative. We expect this approach to create a new breed of professionals ready to face the challenges posed for the development of robust infrastructure. The strategy fosters readiness in environmental design in engineering and construction through evidence-based design and inter/transdisciplinary problem solving. Thus, this research contributes to the body of knowledge by presenting a collaborative effort to train future professionals to design and build a robust infrastructure that can overcome the impact of major natural catastrophes.« less