A small percentage of underrepresented minority high school graduates pursue STEM majors. Often, underrepresented minority students are subjected to stereotype threats, such as being labeled as intellectually inferior, purposely not being selected to participate in classroom discussions and a lack of sense of belonging, such as a lack of inclusivity from class peers and academic advisors while matriculating through the academic programs. The Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement (IECE) has a retention program focused on increasing the retention, self-efficacy and sense of belonging of underrepresented minority students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
The retention program consists of 4 main components, the summer bridge program, monthly socials, collaborative math and science courses and Sunday dinners. The Summer Bridge Scholars Program is a 7-week summer bridge program. Incoming first-year students participate in a seven-week bridge program. In the program, the students live on campus and are immersed in a campus experience. They take a full course load of classes including: Calculus/Pre-Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering Design and English. The students participate in study groups and lunch and learn series to help them prepare for their first-year experience. Students who perform well in their Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology courses receive English credit that go towards their graduation requirements.
In their first year on campus, the students are grouped into a cohort and provided support to transition into their academic careers. They participate in Collaborative Courses which are offered through IECE. These Collaborative Courses including Calculus and Physics supplement their first-year course loads. Through the support of our programming, our students generally perform 10-15 points higher than their counterparts.
The office also hosts a weekly Sunday dinner. During the dinner, the students receive a home-cooked meal and have a chance to network with students in all cohorts. The dinner provides a safe space for students who are often facing stereotype threat and implicit bias in their courses. In addition to fellowship and networking, the students also work in study groups and receive tutoring and academic support.
Monthly socials provide professional development opportunities for students. Students are visited by industry partners to discuss resume writing, interview tips, networking and etiquette. Many of our industry partners use this time to develop authentic relationships that feed into an informal mentoring network. We also use monthly social time for fellowship. Students have had socials highlighted by various activities including basketball and hockey games as well as riverboat rides.
In our presentation, we will discuss each program component, our measures of success which include self-efficacy, retention results and academic performance of our freshman cohort.