Five years ago, the diversity center within our engineering college made a deliberate shift in one of our strategies to recruit diverse undergraduates to our college. As the flagship institution in our state, we had been hosting high school summer bridge programs for many years, with a goal to share the joys of engineering with diverse prospective students. Despite significant financial investment from our large public research institution, we saw very little return on our investment. We were able to attract diverse K-12 students to participate in our summer programming, but we rarely ever saw them matriculate in our college.
Our diversity center supports a board of advisors. In a conversation with a business-minded board member in 2014, we were offered the opportunity to reinvent our K-12 summer bridge program. Our corporate partner was willing to fund a summer bridge if we met his goal of providing engineering exposure to youngsters who hadn’t been given that opportunity. We set about to create a bridge that would meet broadening participation desires while also meeting our recruiting needs.
Starting summer 2015, we launched the EngiNearMe summer program for rising high school seniors. This program was funded through the generosity of one corporate partner. It is a one-week, free summer program that exposes diverse students to engineering on our campus. All students who attend, who are admitted to our engineering college, and who matriculate in our college receive a scholarship. Over the past five years, the program has grown in size, scope and impact, such that it is now a residential experience and one that students across our state are eager to apply for. We consider it a model worth sharing for two key reasons:
1) This is a unique university-corporate partnership. We have been able to fund this with corporate support because we found a way to address corporate priorities and our priorities simultaneously.
2) We’ve used intentional and thoughtful assessment and operated through a model of continuous improvement. As such, we’ve been able to demonstrate significant improvements in five years. We have grown the program from 36 to 62 participants, and we’ve grown college matriculants from four participants to 14. We’ve doubled the scholarship for students, so that students now receive a total of $5,000 over their first two years in our college.
This presentation will share lessons learned and challenges through which we’ve navigated. We will discuss our unique corporate partnership and provide recommendations for others seeking such support. We will also discuss in detail our evaluation and assessment strategy and how it has supported the iterative improvements we’ve implemented over the program’s tenure.
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