PEEPS (Program for Engineering Excellence for Partner Schools) is an NSF S-STEM funded grant. Our Partner Schools are high schools that have a large percentage of students who qualify for the National School Lunch program, and thus are likely to have low socioeconomic status and be first generation and/or underrepresented minorities (URM). The scholarship program aims to form cohorts, or “posses” or “peeps,” of students that support one another throughout their time in college.
In our third year of the project, we report upon some of the formative assessment of the scholarship program. Currently our students are in their 2nd and 3rd years in various engineering programs at a 4-year university. We find some interesting differences between our two cohorts of PEEPS, in terms of their transition from high school to college, their subsequent performance in college, and the interactions among and across the cohorts. While our cohort sizes are quite small, we are able to delve deeper into understanding individual student’s experiences and perspectives through periodic check-ins, social events, and an end-of-the-year focus group facilitated by a project evaluator.
Thus we will not only report common institutional indicators, such as grade point averages and degree progress, compared with other groups, but we will also integrate qualitative findings that help us discern the effectiveness of different program components (e.g., cohort scheduling, study sessions, engineering success courses, mentoring, advising, social events, etc.). The utilization of available resources by the students is also examined.
We seek to move beyond a “deficit model” and embrace our student’s unique “funds of knowledge” and assist them in viewing their backgrounds and individual strengths as assets as engineers. Not only does this framework guide our scholarship program, but also the Engineering Success courses that have been developed through this grant. Our results are being used to inform other initiatives around campus as we work with other entities (such as another scholarship program and the Multicultural Engineering Program) to impact a greater number of students.
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