Abstract

Since 2009, the mechanical engineering (ME) scholarship-science technology engineering and mathematics (S-STEM) Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) has provided financial support and program activities to ME undergraduate students aiming at improving their retention and graduation rates. The objective of this study is to identify program activities that were most effective to help students for improvements. Current ME S-STEM scholars were asked to complete a survey that measures their scientific efficacy, engineering identity, expectations, integration, and sense of belonging, as well as how program activities impact their attitudes and perceptions. Analyses of 36 collected surveys showed that scholars reported high levels of engineering identity, expectations, and sense of belonging. However, further improvements were needed to help students in achieving scientific efficacy and academic integration into the program. Results demonstrated that pro-active mentoring was the most effective method contributing to positive attitudes and perceptions. The implemented S-STEM research-related activities and internship were viewed favorably by the scholars in helping them establish their scientific efficacy and engineering identity, and understand their expectations and goals. Community building activities were considered helpful for them to integrate into campus life and improve their sense of belonging to the campus and program. Scholars identified mentoring, research related activities, internships, and social interaction with faculty and their peers as important factors for their retention and graduation. Although the sample size was small in the study, we believe that the cost-effective activities identified could be adopted by other institutions to further improve students' retention and graduation rates in engineering programs.

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