This Work in Progress paper details an initiative designed to broaden exposure and attract increased interest in the study of engineering of a minority-serving institution (MSI) with a plurality of races represented. The University's student population where this initiative is being implemented consists of 26.2% African American and 6% that identify with two or more races. In contrast, the College of Engineering in this University is 20% African American; the freshmen class makes up 6.3% of this figure. By USDOE standards, this characterization is indicative of a predominantly white institution (PWI). According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, underrepresented minorities (URMs) are critical to not only fulfilling the growing need for STEM professionals but also to enhance diversity in the workforce; the National Academy of Science report states similar theories about the need of URMs to increase innovation. This paper focuses on reporting on an initiative seeking to close the gap of African American representation between the College and the University and foster the innovation of URMs in engineering. The initiative Early Engineering Experience targets African American high school juniors and seniors. Designing the program began with the Participatory Action Research Model that ultimately ends with continual program enhancement. The structure of the initiative is not only based on the details of the schedule but also on the feedback of the participants. The lack of URMs in the college provoked an idea from personal experiences at other minority events. With the use of a systematic online document review of current weekend outreach programs, a plan of action was developed, and effective program designs were synthesized.
Based on the systematic review of similar programs, the current plan is to implement a program in February of 2020 that will target about 30 participants. Mentees will be able to connect with multiple organizations such as the VEX robotics club, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and etc. This weekend initiative is designed to allow participants to gain personal exposure and access to various engineering curriculums, lab collaboration and organizational and club introductions while mirroring the campus activities of four mentors.
“Changing the Conversation: Messages for improving public understanding of Engineering” demonstrates student misconceptions about what the field of engineering entails. Therefore, students are often unaware of the technological contributions that have and can be made through the study of engineering. With the implementation of this program, the initiative will make a lasting impression on the participants. The Early Engineering Experience aims to foster interest in African American youth in a field that is in desperate need of new innovative minds.
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