Students who identified as a member of an underrepresented minority (e.g. Native-American, Hispanic, or African-American ethnicities) enrolled in Engineering at a predominantly-white institution (PWI) have been found to have higher rates of attrition out of the Engineering than majority members of the engineering student population at the PWI investigated in this study. To help address this issue, the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) office at this institution leads programmatic efforts to increase the academic success, retention, and graduation rates of minority engineering students. This study assessed the impact of participation on students in the MEP-led annual summer bridge program which aimed to maximize a student’s sense of community and feeling of inclusion, academic preparation, and awareness of campus and professional resources as a foundation for improving success in the First Year Engineering Program.
Indicators of the impact of this program on minority student success evaluated during this study included participant's engineering self-efficacy and academic performance. Engineering self-efficacy can be defined as a student’s belief in their ability to manage prospective situations and challenges related to the pursuit of an engineering degree. Engineering self-efficacy has been found to correlate to persistence of students in engineering. This study measured the engineering self-efficacy of first-year minority engineering students who participated in the Summer Transition Program (STP); as well as 1st year minority engineering students who did not participate in any of these initiatives. Survey data were collected from two cohorts of minority engineering freshmen during the fall of 2015 and fall of 2016 for this study.
The data collection instrument utilized for this study was the Longitudinal Assessment of Engineering Self-Efficacy (LAESE) survey. The LAESE survey is a validated instrument designed during a National Science Foundation (NSF) study to measure the self-efficacy of students studying engineering (Marra and Bogue 2006). In addition to measuring each student’s self-efficacy, academic performance data (e.g. SAT/ACT, college GPA, etc.) were analyzed for correlation with program participation and/or engineering self-efficacy. By measuring the self-efficacy and academic performance of both participating and non-participating groups of minority engineering students from similar ethnic backgrounds, exposed to similar academic and social environments, the effect of participation in these programs could be investigated to isolate specific aspects of program participation that improve engineering self-efficacy and correlate to academic success in the Engineering curriculum at a large PWI.
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