An integrated supplemental program to enhance the first-year engineering experience

Ordel Brown, Robin A.M. Hensel, Melissa Lynn Morris, Joseph Dygert

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Student retention in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, especially engineering, continues to be a challenge for higher education institutions. Engineering retention 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) implemented to gain insight into this attrition rate, showed that students left primarily because of lack of interest in and knowledge about engineering and the institution, disconnection from the engineering profession, low self-efficacy and academic difficulty. Underrepresented minority (URM) students left at a disproportionately higher rate than non-URM students. In an attempt to address these issues, a modified, integrated first-year orientation program, consisting of a summer bridge and in-semester curricular and co-curricular components, was implemented and funded first by a NASA Space Grant and later by NSF. The program targeted first-time, full-time (FTFT) students from URM groups, including females, and provided opportunities for 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. The challenges, logistics and results of the implementation of this program are detailed in this paper. Preliminary results not only advance retention efforts within the college and university, but also have potential for a broader societal impact by increasing and diversifying the pool of potential engineering talent that is needed in the United States' workforce. Recommendations to include long-term studies of the participants are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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