The type of paper being proposed here is Evidence-based Practice.
This paper reports on the second iteration of a first-year cohort program called START developed at a university in NorthEast, U.S.A. Upon review of applications for the program and selection of students each year, it has become apparent that engineering students have represented over 30% of the student population in each of the START cohorts thus far. This cohort program which is for all majors would have welcomed almost any ratio of representation from students entering the engineering college or other colleges at the university. START is for all majors. The program continues to build on its efforts in supporting a diverse pool of scholars, in part by stimulating the retention and success of Black/African-American and Latino/Hispanic male students during their first year at the university. While the paper endeavors to describe the program, various quantitative and qualitative metrics are presented which support assessment of the efforts. The main focus of the present work is to discuss these elements of the program, and highlight student performance through the lens of engineering vs. non-engineering students in the program. While first year programs specifically for engineering students may be valuable, there could also be value in analyzing the impact of non-STEM oriented programs on engineering students’ retention and success. Alternatively, this approach may highlight deficiencies which may be used to inform STEM-based or discipline-specific cohort programs. The paper discusses 1) the implementation of the program, changes and improvements made from Year One to Year two; 2) success garnered by the first Cohort, only fully quantifiable after completion of the first year and start of the second year; 3) life after the first year for students who were a part of Cohort 1, and 4) success of students in Cohort 2. It should be noted that due in part to the experiences and success reported in Cohort 1, Cohort 2 was doubled in size. The goals and associated success indicators of the program, how they were met, and how they continue to be measured and monitored are described here. GPAs were a primary metric, with START students having aggregate GPAs 20% higher than their counterparts in a control group. Credit completion was another important metric, with START students completing 20% more credits than their counterparts. First-year retention rate for Cohort 1 was ~6% higher than their counterparts. It is hypothesized that with the combination of approaches offered in the START program, studnets will continue to achieve higher GPAs in their first semester, and subsequently retention data on the cohort will be higher than comparison groups, in the second semester, in the second year, and beyond, culminating in higher graduation rates. Thus far, results presented here for Cohort 2 support this hypothesis.
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