This is a Work in Progress paper discussing the underlying student support structure to develop a holistic approach to the first-year engineering experience. The X College of Engineering at X University maintains five departments with seven undergraduate degree programs. Within the College of Engineering, the primary goals of the first-year student-focused Office of Student Development and Success (OSDS) is to improve retention and graduation rates by successfully guiding new students through the transition experienced in their first year. OSDS works to connect and immerse first-year students into the College of Engineering, and X University as a whole, in pursuit of achieving these goals. Faculty and staff in OSDS have observed that the development of personal connections for new students within their new academic environment and home, can significantly ease their transition, while providing numerous opportunities to help them establish personal independence. Independence develops as first-year students’ step through the process of creating personalized support structures away from home. An apparent high level of intrinsic motivation to develop a personalized support structure forges academic ownership for a student, and works to establish a sense of pride for their choice of academic path and future profession. A student’s willingness to adopt and follow this process through their first year, in many cases, will determine whether they are able to successfully transition and become independent learners, problem solvers, and young professionals within this unfamiliar context.
For the fall 2019 semester, approximately 27% of first-year students in the College of Engineering were non-Caucasian, as compared to an average 39% for all engineering program enrollment in the United States. Additionally, for the fall 2019 semester, only 13% of first-year students in the College of Engineering were women, as compared to an average 26% for all engineering program enrollment in the United States (Roy, Joseph 2018, 48). A separate aspect of our changing first-year students, is the rising number of Early College and Dual Enrolled students in the past several years. These numeric discrepancies, the increase in variability of new student higher education experience, and the goals of the College of Engineering, have led to the creation of new first-year student support programs, and an evolving partnership with existing first-year student support programs, within OSDS, to work toward optimizing student outreach, level of community connection, and ease of transition. The primary goal of this outreach effort is to maximize inclusivity and connection by providing a comprehensive set of resources for all students in order to create an academic environment conducive to their successful transition into the College of Engineering, and the larger X University communities.
A concerted effort by all first-year student support programs, and OSDS supported courses, to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented minorities and women in the College of Engineering is currently underway. This will be achieved by providing targeted opportunities for new students to join pre-established communities, connecting students to activities and events, fostering academic and professional development, and providing networking opportunities to develop relationships with their peers, professors, advisors, and alumni mentors. The efforts to reach out to students to build the necessary support framework is approached from multiple fronts by OSDS. Engagement, peer and professional mentoring, advising, residential programming, and academic and professional development, combine to provide a multifaceted approach to new student transition, and academic and professional success. The efforts of OSDS have been met with both successes and challenges, and continue to strive for improvement. In the pursuit of continuous improvement, with a focus on increased diversity, OSDS seeks to learn and adopt new strategies and methodologies as we work to adapt to the regularly evolving cohorts of new students in the College of Engineering at X University.
Roy, Joseph. 2018. “Engineering by the Numbers.” Accessed September 13, 2019.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.