As the state of Washington continues to face a shortage of qualified workers needed to fill jobs in STEM-related fields, Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Washington (UW) continue to partner to increase the number of engineering and computer science graduates through the Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) Program. Adopting the “redshirt” term from athletics, where student athletes will defer their playing eligibility for one year to improve their skills in the sport, STARS gives students from academically and economically disadvantaged backgrounds an additional year of support as they begin their pursuit of a degree in engineering or computer science. (Despite use of the term “redshirt,” the program is independent of athletics.) Modeled after the University of Colorado’s GoldShirt Program, the STARS program provides engineering and computer science students with scholarship support, specialized curriculum, intrusive advising, and a supportive community.
While student performance in math and science courses can be correlated with retention in the college of engineering, this correlation does little to inform about practices and mindsets that help retain those students. Students may receive passing grades in their math and science courses but do not utilize the tutoring offered by STARS. Some students appear to be enticed to the STARS program for scholarship support, but may not be enthusiastic about the social aspect of the program and yet they perform acceptably well academically. Others hit a wall, usually a failed exam or tough professor, and want to give up. However, the students who take advantage of the resources offered by STARS, take part in activities within the college of engineering, and display a “growth” mindset persist to a higher degree than students who do not. In the past, this was observed in largely an anecdotal manner. In this work, we discuss the development of a rubric for measuring the awareness and utilization of resources, level of activity in the college of engineering, and change in a “growth” vs. “fixed” mindset. This rubric will provide insight as to what behaviors and activities are most impactful in terms of student persistence.
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