This paper describes findings on interviews conducted to Hispanic engineering students interested in participating in an S-STEM fellowship program at our institution. The program seeks to increase the retention, persistence, and success of Low-Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS) at the College of Engineering (CoE). Specifically, this program integrates elements from Lent’s et al. Social Cognitive Career Theory and Tinto’s Departure Model in conjunction with a scholarship program to establish an intervention model to be further institutionalized at the CoE, if proven to be effective. Specifically, this paper focuses on findings during the recruitment and selection process. An exploratory study was conducted guided by the following research question: What are the success expectations of LIATS participating on the proposed fellowship program?
The recruitment process implemented consisted of a five-stage process: (1) program announcement, (2) application process, (3) info-sessions, (4) interview process, and (5) awarding process. Out of 2,388 students received that were invited to participate, 92 were finally selected for the program. The participation was distributed as 41 scholars (S) and 51 participants (P). Participants received all program benefits except financial aid, i.e. they participated on all the interventions designed for the program. Furthermore, the final group distribution resulted in 34 freshmen (S=13, P=21), 28 sophomore (S=13, P=15) and 38 juniors (S=13, P=15).
The interview protocol consisted of 6 questions that focused on: (1) interest in pursuing an engineering degree, (2) likes and dislikes on their current program of study, (3) factors affecting academic their performance, (4) plans after graduation, (5) events that had an effect on their academic performance, (6) interest on participating in the program. A grounded theory approach was applied to determine emerging themes through an open-coding process. Then, participants’ answers were tallied and ranked. Preliminary results indicated that students’ interest to pursue an engineering degree was due to participation either on a STEM program at their high school or a campus outreach activity, such as summer camps. In terms of how they feel about their program of study findings indicated a positive reaction to the college environment. On the other hand the main trouble was the adaptation to the college work-load. When asked about factors affecting their academic performance, participants indicated the economic problems that were facing due to the rise of school tuition fees. Also, their plans after graduation were to continue graduate studies followed closely by getting a job. Furthermore, participants indicated that time management has been the biggest factor affecting their academic performance. Finally, their motivation to participate in the program was to seek mentorship from professors from their field of study.
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