NSF S-STEM Scholarship Program Initiative via Recruitment, Innovation, and Transformation: SPIRIT Program Year-One Results
The NSF S-STEM funded SPIRIT: Scholarship Program Initiative via Recruitment, Innovation, and Transformation program at _______ ________ __________creates a new approach to the recruitment, retention, education, and placement of academically talented and financially needy engineering and engineering technology students. Twenty-seven new and continuing students were recruited into interdisciplinary cohorts that are being nurtured and developed in a community characterized by extensive peer and faculty mentoring, vertically integrated Project Based Learning (PBL), and undergraduate research experiences. The SPIRIT Scholar program attracted a diverse group of Engineering and Engineering Technology students, thus increasing the percentage of female and minority student program participation as compared to the host department program demographics. Over the last academic year, fifty-four undergraduate research projects/activities were conducted by the twenty-seven scholars under the direction of twelve faculty fellows. Additionally, peer-to-peer mentorship and student leadership were developed through the program’s vertically integrated PBL model, which incorporated four courses and seven small-group design projects. Academic and professional support for the student scholars were administered through collaborations with several offices at the host institution, including an industry-engaged product development center. The program participants reported strong benefits from engaging in the year-one program activities. Specifically, this paper will present results from the program activities, including: cohort recruitment and demographics; support services; undergraduate research; vertically integrated PBL activities; and the external review of the program. Similar programs may benefit from the findings and the external review report, which contained several accolades as well as suggestions for potential continuous improvement.
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