This paper describes the structure, implementation strategy, and early results of an undergraduate NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program aimed at: (a) increasing the number of graduating engineers with research and entrepreneurship experience, (b) preparing students for the future needs of their fields through graduate study, and (c) increasing the low on-time completion rates of current dual degree (BS+MS and BS+MBA) programs. The scholarship program, in addition to a series of tailor-made undergraduate research courses and activity offerings, provides a comprehensive system of regular academic advising, mentoring, and opportunities for professional and social development. Students are guided from the beginning to develop ownership in their education by documenting their participation in a personal e-Portfolio, along with the attainment of the necessary academic, research, and entrepreneurship skills needed to excel in today’s fast changing work environment. This S-STEM program provides stipend support for 32 students for the sophomore to senior years for students selected through a competitive application process.
To build interest in the scholarship program and develop a diverse cohort of students to compete for acceptance into the program, two distinct but interrelated programs were executed during the 2014-2015 school year. The first program integrated the Challenge Based Learning pedagogy into the required freshman course Engineering Foundations to build a learning community of students with exposure to the Engineering Research and the Entrepreneurial Processes. The results of this were successful in both developing interest in the scholarship program, 89 of 222 (40%) students in the course expressed interest in applying, and providing the students with exposure to research and entrepreneurship. The second program involved the recruitment of a cohort of five underrepresented minority freshman engineering students (Freshman Scholars). The Freshman Scholars participate in a year-long preparatory program sustainably structured using existing programs in the university system for academic support, faculty and peer mentoring, monthly socials to interact with university and industrial professionals, and workshops and seminars providing research and entrepreneurship experiential learning opportunities throughout the year. Four of the five students (80%) went on to compete for and gain acceptance into the first cohort of students in the S-STEM scholarship program.
The first cohort of Freshman Scholars was evaluated by survey at the end of their freshman year on the various aspects of the program and strongly agreed overall that the program made them more confident in their abilities (3.80/4.00) and that participation improved their freshman year performance (3.60/4.00). The aspect of the program ranked highest by students (3.82/4.00) was peer mentoring, which was provided through an established university program. Trained peer mentors provided social support as well as resume and research plan development support. Also highly rated programs by the students were community engagement (3.57/4.00), and a variety of research skills workshops and seminars (3.43/4.00). Research skills seminars included: technical writing, public speaking, and poster making, and seminars included engineering ethics, research in an academic setting, and graduate education opportunities and application process. The freshman year programs implemented showed success in recruiting students for the S-STEM program, and can serve as a model for other undergraduate programs looking to enrich the experiences of their undergraduates by providing a comprehensive, supportive, and career-relevant environment inside and outside of the classroom.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.