Purpose: The purpose of the Sustainable Bridges from Campus to Campus study (NSF IUSE #1525367) is to increase the number of underrepresented students (i.e., African American, Native American, Hispanic students) in undergraduate Engineering majors. By doing so we strive to address the urgent need to expand the pool of undergraduates who earn a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degree. This paper describes progress after two years into the project.
Goals: To improve retention in Engineering, this study will conduct academic enrichment programs for racially underrepresented Engineering students at three points in their career at the Pennsylvania State University—entering first-year students, rising sophomores, and rising juniors. The goals of the study are to (a) increase retention in Engineering among racially underrepresented students in the Pennsylvania State University system, (b) develop long-term sustainability plans for these enrichment programs, and (c) compare retention rates in Engineering depending on whether students attended a summer academic enhancement program at the regional campus they attend in the fall or at a different campus and whether they transfer between campuses within the University system (native students vs. 2+2 students).
Method: Students in the summer bridge programs for incoming first-year students and rising sophomores attend 4- or 6-week summer programs that provide math-intensive curriculum, the application of Engineering concepts, and the development of a cohort learning community. The summer bridge programs for incoming first-year students consist of 5 summer bridge programs across 4 campuses in the University system. For the summer bridge program for rising sophomores, Engineering students from any campus in the University system go to the flagship campus. To assess the effectiveness of these academic enhancement programs for undergraduate Engineering majors, we examine math course grades, fall semester grade point average, grade point average at the end of the academic year, and enrollment status for students who participated in our programs and a matched sample of students who did not participate. To date, we are tracking the academic progress of two cohorts of first-year students from summer 2016 and 2017 and one cohort of rising sophomores from summer 2017.
Results: Statistical comparisons between the first cohort of first-year students and their matched comparisons indicated no differences on math course grades, grade point average, or retention after their first year. Analyses are pending for the 2017 fall semester grades and retention for the second cohort of first-year students and the first cohort of rising sophomores.
Conclusions: Conclusions are pending following obtaining 2017 fall semester grade information. After combining the first and second cohorts of first-year students, we anticipate that the larger sample size and statistical power will facilitate the observation of group differences.
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