Funded by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Project Based Learning Program for Nuclear Workforce Development at Western Carolina University (WCU) has been designed to provide scholarships for $5000 per semester for engineering (electric power and mechanical concentration) students who are pursuing an educational emphasis in nuclear power and who desire to contribute to the nuclear-related national workforce. The main objective is to use these scholarships to attract an inaugural class of students who will initiate our program for serving nuclear-related industry and academia leveraging WCU’s engineering project based learning sequence. Our objective is also to increase the quantity and diversity of students majoring in these engineering programs. This paper presents Phase I efforts and the results in terms of outreach, recruiting and selection at WCU.
Selected students are expected to be sophomore through seniors who would be pursuing an educational emphasis in nuclear power, engaging in nuclear-related projects through WCU’s engineering project-based learning sequence and who have agreed to the terms of the scholarship program which will include an agreement to work in nuclear-related employment for 6 months for every complete or partial year of support awarded. The freshmen students were not included in the selection pool to address short term workforce needs of nuclear industry and because of the lower freshmen retention rate in comparison to higher academic levels.
To that end, an outreach and recruiting effort was carefully administered to target and attract students interested to be part of the nuclear related workforce in the U.S. First, an outreach effort targeting regional area community college transfer students and existing students in the university was organized to advertise and promote the scholarship program. This effort included community college visits, participation in college day fairs, classroom visits and internet posting through a website.
Secondly, a scholarship selection committee was formed by the university faculty, staff, and two industry advisory board members to provide a fair selection process. The selection criteria included grade point average, SAT/ACT scores, financial need status, involvement in extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, essay writing skills and whether the candidate was from an underrepresented group in engineering. Each committee members’ rankings were aggregated equally to figure out the overall student eligibility ranking.
Finally, the candidates were contacted with official scholarship offer letters. The selection of seven candidates whom all accepted the offers were realized in two rounds of selection cycle. In order to implement an evaluation plan with the purpose of measuring this project’s early impact in attracting and recruiting students for careers in nuclear related fields, a first semester intake survey of not only award candidates but their peers in the Engineering program was conducted.
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