The Mathematics, Engineering, and Physics (MEP) Scholars program at is contributing well-prepared individuals to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by providing an educational experience that emphasizes student discovery. This program is designed to increase enrollment of students, including those from underrepresented groups, and improve retention of scholars through graduation or transfer to an affiliated institution in engineering-related disciplines. The project is recruiting annual cohorts of students based on academic ability and financial need and supporting them by the development of a Residential Learning Community (RLC), faculty mentors, tutoring, peer study groups, college survival skills training, and career development.
Since we received this NSF grant in July 2014, we have already recruited 23 scholars. Among them, we have one Asian, five African American, and four Hispanic. Our retention rate in majors are 75% in general, specifically, 80% from year 1 to year 2, and 72% from year 2 to year 3. A couple of changes happened since we started this scholarship program. We expanded this scholarship to students majored in computer science which is one key pipeline for the next generation STEM workforce. The 3+2 engineering dual degree program was transitioned to a 4-year engineering department which can confer BS degrees of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.
At the beginning of each year, we have orientations to welcome new scholars and kick off a new academic year. We usually start with ice breakers to introduce PIs, faculty mentors, staff to each other and then play several games to help scholars explore their own types of study methods, cultivate team work spirits, have hands-on experiences, and improve their communication skills and leadership. In addition, each year we have various curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as: faculty mentor and scholar meetings to track our scholar’s academic progress, faculty mentor trainings provided by our center for teaching and learning, campus visits and seminars about STEM education given by external speakers who are professors at other universities, filed trips to local engineering companies, movie nights including discussion sessions about the relevant science/engineering related with movies, T-shirt design competition, Halloween party with masks designed by our scholars, career workshop given by our career resource center staff beyond the monthly PIs meetings and annual evaluation given by our external evaluator.
We are still in the middle of this project and we are exploring better practices for improving our scholars’ learning, preparing them ready for their careers to increase the number of next generation STEM workforce and increasing the number of women, minors and students from underrepresented groups. PIs, senior personnel, faculty mentors, and other personnel have learned lessons from participating in this project and have more self-reflections about the next step of this project as well as our professional developments.
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