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Enhancing the Existing DACC-NMSU Aggie Pathway (AP) for Transfer Engineering Students

AP is a cohort-based model for facilitating the transfer process for DACC transfer students. Through AP, DACC students become part of in-house learning communities at DACC, with access to NMSU campus housing and dining facilities. AP students are required to take COLL 155 (AP Seminar) and are assigned peer mentors, meeting face-to-face once a week. In addition to a staff advisor at DACC, one full-time AP Advisor is placed at the NMSU Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation Office to interact with AP students to develop and monitor their transfer plans, transferring them to their respective College Advisors. This STAR Project will utilize AP as a vehicle to connect to DACC STEM students to enhance their mathematics proficiency, to initiate and augment their engineering identity and growth mindset, and to provide appropriate academic and non-academic interventions starting in the second semester at DACC. On selected occasions, AP Seminars will be utilized to conduct   Metacognition, Learning and Study Skills, and Time Management Workshops, delivered by the PIs and the Student Success Center (NMSU).



Enhancing Mathematics Proficiency in Transfer Engineering Students:

During the summer following the cohort’s selection at DACC, we propose a 5-week Summer Math Boot Camp (SMBC), coinciding with the 5-week summer semester in which Math 190G (Pre-Calc) is offered. All STAR scholars (whether or not enrolled in Math 190G) will spend two extra afternoon hours (MTWR) in mathematics supplemental instructions covering additional problems from Math 190G, as well as how this course fits with Math 191 (Calc-I). All scholars will be required to take Math 191 in the semester following the SMBC. SMBC will help STAR scholars to enhance their mathematics skills and prepare them to clear subsequent Math191/192 courses with at least a B grade before transferring to CoE. At selected occasions during SMBC, Metacognition, Learning and Study Skills, and Time Management Workshops will also be conducted.



Initiating and Enhancing Self-Efficacy and Growth Mindset Through Metacognition:

According to Bandura self-efficacious students have been found to persist, engage more, and set and achieve higher goals in academic tasks. Dweck’s inquiry into “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” makes a compelling case for cultivating and nurturing a “growth mindset.” Fortunately, students’ ability to adopt a “self-efficacious attitude” and “growth mindset” are factors that can be improved. Further, Metacognition, often defined as “thinking about thinking,” is primarily about monitoring, understanding, and controlling thoughts, leading to altered and ideally more productive behavior. Metacognitive awareness can strengthen the ability to recognize the limits of current learning practices and then take steps to remedy the situation; such awareness is valuable for learners at all ages. Therefore, metacognition workshops are planned to initiate and enhance STAR scholars’ self-efficacy, growth mindset, and reflective behavior.



Initiating and Enhancing Transfer Students’ ‘Engineering Identity’ Through Cohort-Based Activities:

There are many challenges in STEM education for all students, more so for students with minority or low socioeconomic status, and women. Broadly speaking, these challenges call for both academic and non-academic competencies such as establishing an “engineering mindset and identity”, broader self-management, self-expression, and interpersonal skills. Many studies show that the social and academic integration of students with their intended departments, laboratories, faculty, peers, and professions are positively correlated with the desire and commitment to pursue STEM studies. To this end, the STAR Project has entered in partnership with the Eloy Torrez Family Engineering Learning Communities (ELCs) at NMSU CoE. The ELCs consist of ~8,000 sft facilities in NMSU CoE with dedicated space. The ELCs also facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring, faculty mentoring and advising, industry speaker sessions, workshops on writing skills, career services, GRE preparation, review study sessions, online progress monitoring and tracking of participants, professional engineering societies information sessions and workshops, and mid-term quick connect intervention. Near-peer mentors will be housed at two places: DACC’s Academic Readiness Center (ARC), and CoE’ ELCs. STAR Scholars will be encouraged to interact with near-peer mentors at both facilities even before transferring to NMSU, thus enabling them to be familiar with NMSU and CoE. Further, all STAR scholars will be mandated to participate in cohort meetings to be held in ELCs.


Assessing Students’ Academic Performance Using Data Analytics:

A data-driven approach is adopted to (a) track students’ academic performance, (b) determine indicators of potential academic performance problems, and (c) match academic indicators to appropriate interventions. The predictive nature of data analytics allows students to be directed to a support network before they are too far behind in a course to recover. The STAR team will collect data on student performance from a variety of sources, including DACC and NMSU student information systems (Banner) and a learning management system (Canvas). Data will be analyzed for indications of academic struggles, using machine learning algorithms trained on historical data.



Utilizing Near-Peer Mentors and Tutors For Academic Interventions:

Peer mentoring/ tutoring by well-placed Junior/Senior students is an effective role-modeling and relationship-building model that has shown great potential in helping STEM majors to persist and graduate in STEM fields. Eighteen (18) undergraduate (Junior/Senior) CoE students in good standing will be selected to serve as near-peer tutors/mentors for the STAR cohort. They will help to formulate the content and structure of supplemental instructions, be available by appointment, and proactively reach out to STAR scholars who are struggling as identified through the data analytics. Each mentor/tutor will be paired with five STAR scholars, a small-group structure particularly effective for women and URM students. Each peer mentor will maintain learning objectives for the courses in which the cohort is enrolled and collect and maintain a suite of resources (e.g., additional problem sets) to support those learning objectives. Recognizing the importance of the training aspect of these mentors/tutors, the STAR project team will provide training in leadership, mentoring, dealing with difficult people/situations, and recognizing struggling students. All mentors will be aware of the available resources at DACC and NMSU. Each near-peer mentor will be available for 10 hours per week divided between DACC and ELCs – NMSU.



Initiating a Concurrent Co-Enrollment Model for Transfer Engineering Students:

Students will be accepted into the STAR cohort at the end of their first semester at DACC. All students in the cohort will be encouraged to enroll in ENGR 100 (Introduction to Engineering) conducted at CoE, COLL 155 (AP Seminar) at DACC, and General Education courses appropriate for engineering. During the second year, scholars will continue in AP COLL 155, taking the same sections of MATH 191G (Calculus I) and MATH 192G (Calculus II) if possible. In addition to general education courses, they will be encouraged to enroll in at least one course per semester at NMSU CoE that is introductory to the student’s intended area of study, such as EE 100 (Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering), CHME 101 (Introduction to Chemical Engineering Calculations), CE 151 (Introduction to Civil Engineering), IE 151 (Computational Methods in Industrial Engineering), or ME 159 (Graphical Communication and Design).



Enhancing the NMSU CoE Faculty Advising Model:

Group mentoring (five scholars per faculty) with an NMSU CoE faculty member will begin when the Scholars make the transition to CoE. Twenty four (24) CoE faculty have agreed to serve as faculty mentors for STAR scholars. The Eloy Torrez Family ELCs will provide the venue for group and one-on-one meetings. A faculty mentoring orientation and round table discussion on best practices in mentoring will be held each year for the faculty mentors. STAR scholars will complete a questionnaire indicating their engineering interests and what topics they want to discuss with a mentor. Based on the responses, the individual STAR scholars will be paired with suitable faculty mentors. The faculty mentor-mentee pair will stay together for the first year after the transition to CoE.



Data Collection and Analysis:

Extensive data collection and analysis are planned throughout the duration of the STAR project to answer the following Research Questions:

  • To what degree do the students’ self-reported metacognitive study practices affect growth in their academic performance, in terms of their overall GPA?
  • To what degree do the students’ self-reported engineering identity affect their retention and graduation in engineering?
  • To what degree are students’ mathematics grades in Math190/191 affected by this Program?
  • Is there a relationship between grades in Math190/191 and subsequent retention in engineering?
  • To what degree does near-peer mentoring affect students’ persistence and graduation in engineering?