Bob Stwalley, Carol Stwalley 2017-12-19 00:58:21
Purdue Rising Scholars: A New Way to Predict College Success The culture of American higher education, particularly admissions and counseling, can be problematic for many families, especially for those who are sending their first generation to college. For students who enter STEM fields, these problems are exacerbated by the rigor of the curriculum. Simply allowing students to sink or swim in this highly competitive environment does a tremendous disservice to these students and to our professions by denying society the potential talents of these promising individuals. Allowing this culture to persist threatens the American promise of equality of opportunity. Equity in education demands that we examine the factors that contribute to success in college and that we cultivate these factors for students who do not have the background or understanding to navigate unassisted through the arcane world of higher education. Nearly everyone who successfully completes the college experience understands that they didn’t do it alone. They all had support. That support came from their families, friends, faculty members, lab managers, university staff members, and others who encouraged them and gave them advice along the way. This idea is so basic that it tends to be overlooked by most professional educators and counselors. When this idea is mentioned in academic circles, the response is nearly always along the line of “Well, that goes without saying.” However, it doesn’t go without saying. The quality of a student’s support group is essential to the student’s achievement. Derek Peterson, founder of the Institute for Community and Adolescent Resiliency - Unifying Solutions (http://icarus.com) and formerly with the Alaska Department of Education, began researching the connection between support networks and academic success during the 1990s. Working with Peterson, a team from Purdue University’s ABE, Engineering Education, and Minority Engineering programs designed an NSF S-STEM project to select non-typical students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who had the desire and sufficiently active support networks for potential success in engineering at Purdue. The students for the first cadre were selected through an extensive screening and interview process during the spring of 2017. They attended Minority Engineering Academic Boot Camp during the summer and formally entered the university in the fall through Exploratory Studies, where they took the standard courses required for freshman engineering. These Rising Scholar students will enroll in special seminars to teach them how to cultivate support group members to enhance their network with professional contacts, and they will participate in research and internship activities to provide additional opportunities to meet professionals in their chosen fields. Almost all of these activities already exist within the university framework and have proven track records for benefiting students. In general, the Rising Scholar students will be provided with a well-structured path through college that increases their contact with individuals who can mentor them in their studies and help them in their careers. In exchange for their participation in this project, the Rising Scholar students are provided with a $6,500 annually renewable scholarship to help defray the costs of their education. A second cadre of students will be recruited in the spring of 2018. The performance of these students will be compared with that of the general student population that has been admitted into engineering programs. The research team will stay engaged with these students throughout their college years, and we hope to track their professional careers. Overall, we hope to demonstrate that selection of qualified students with adequate support networks is a better determiner of college success than high-stakes testing. A predetermined college path that’s designed to enhance support networks will provide a route to professional success for students whose original networks did not include college experience. This project is significant because of the high dropout rate within STEM majors and the shortage of STEM graduates in our society. The success of this project could trigger a significant re-examination of how we admit high school seniors into college and how we counsel students through the college experience. For further information about this project, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you. ASABE member Bob Stwalley, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., USA, firstname.lastname@example.org. Carol Stwalley, Recruitment and Retention Data Analyst, Purdue Minority Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., USA, email@example.com.
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