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The Value of Climate in Educational Experiences forDiverse Student Populations within Engineering Disciplines

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  2021 ASABE Annual International Virtual Meeting  2100005.(doi:10.13031/aim.202100005)
Authors:   Grace L. Baldwin, Virginia Booth Womack, Sarah E. LaRose, Carol S. Stwalley, Robert M. Stwalley, III
Keywords:   support networks, socioeconomic status, bias, admissions, NSF S-STEM.

Abstract. In 2016, an NSF S-STEM grant was awarded to explore the connection between student support networks and success within collegiate STEM field majors. For this on-going diversity study, promising students with low socio-economic status were selected from a pool of low socio-economic status applicants that were denied admission straight into engineering, but given admission into the university. These Rising Scholars were invited into a scholarship program based upon the quality of their support networks and their readiness for higher education. Local research on institutional efficacy supported the concept that student success and satisfaction with the collegiate experience were directly related to how welcome and comfortable the student felt within their chosen academic field. The students need to feel that they are part of a larger community that values them and their contributions. Advocacy organizations and smaller engineering schools, like Agricultural & Biological Engineering, do a good job creating this welcoming climate for their students. The Rising Scholar program was designed to create a local, familial cultural reference point for the students and utilize existing successful elements of the local university environment. Multiple experiential elements, professional communication exercises, and social opportunities were provided to enhance student skills and contact networks. The students were provided numerous chances for interaction and were continually reminded about networking strategies. Initial retention and GPA data support the conclusion that these students can be very successful in a highly ranked, R1 institution when provided with sufficient mentoring and means to reduce the financial burden of attendance.

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