Despite national efforts in increasing representation of minority students in STEM disciplines, disparities prevail. Hispanics account for 17.4% of the U.S. population, and nearly 20% of the youth population (21 years and below) in the U.S. is Hispanic, yet they account for just 7% of the STEM workforce. To tackle these challenges, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted a 5-year project – ASSURE-US, that seeks to improve undergraduate education in Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) at California State University, Fullerton. The project seeks to advance student success during the first two years of college for ECS students. Towards that goal, the project incorporates a very diverse set of approaches, such as socio-cultural and academic interventions. Multiple strategies including developing early intervention strategies in gateway STEM courses, creating a nurturing faculty-student interaction and collaborative learning environment, providing relevant, contextual-based learning experiences, integrating project-based learning with engineering design in lower-division courses, exposing lower-division students to research to sustain student interests, and helping students develop career-readiness skills. The project also seeks to develop an understanding of the personal, social, cognitive, and contextual factors contributing to student persistence in STEM learning that can be used by STEM faculty to improve their pedagogical and student-interaction approaches. This paper summarizes the major approaches the ASSURE-US project plans to implement to reduce the achievement gap and motivate ECS students to remain in the program. Preliminary findings from the first-year implementation of the project including pre- and post- data were collected and analyzed from about one hundred freshmen and sophomore ECS students regarding their academic experience in lower-division classes and their feedback for various social support events held by the ASSURE-US project during the academic year 2018-19. The preliminary results obtained during the first year of ASSURE-US project suggests that among the different ASSURE-US activities implemented in the first year, both the informal faculty-student interactions and summer research experiences helped students commit more to their major during their lower-division years. The pre-post surveys also show improvements in terms of awareness among ASSURE-US students for obtaining academic support services, understanding career options and pathways, and obtaining personal counseling services.
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