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June 2013

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

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Engineering | Engineering Education


EXCEED: Excellence in Your Engineering Education is a ten day, residential summer transition program that was designed to improve retention and graduation rates at San José State University (SJSU). SJSU is a large, public institution in the West with a very diverse student population. However, the university has lower graduation and retention rates for certain student populations in engineering including underrepresented groups and first generation college students. This transition program was designed to meet five outcomes: acculturate the students to the College of Engineering and the university, enhance math and writing preparation, build community amongst the cohort of students, enhance study skills, and introduce engineering design principles and an exposure to the engineering field. These outcomes were chosen based on a literature review of student success and through focus groups with freshmen in our college. To meet the outcomes of the program, a set of twenty learning objectives were created. Then activities were designed to meet these learning objectives. Workshops on writing and math were included to better prepare students for the level of work needed in their first year classes. Resources in the university were highlighted to students through a “campus resource hunt” and through workshops with key university staff on topics including counseling, health services, time management, and career resources. Students were exposed to the engineering field through industry tours and guest lecturers. One key aspect of the program was that the incoming freshmen worked on a community based, service learning project. In the service learning project, students worked in small teams to build something for a local non-profit agency. These included an after school center, a community garden, a women and children’s shelter, and a food and clothing distribution center. The projects were designed to be relatively small projects that could be accomplished in ten days with no engineering or construction experience. The primary goal of the project was to teach the students the engineering design process. The steps included brainstorming, narrowing down their design options, communicating their design idea to the stakeholder, incorporating feedback into their design, managing the project, and working together as a team. This learning could be accomplished through a range of different project types. However, research has shown that using a community service project, known as service learning, has a number of benefits including increased motivation towards using engineering to better society and increased retention and graduation rates in engineering, particularly among women and under-represented groups. The program utilized peer mentors who worked closely with the students, with each peer mentor assigned to a small group of incoming students. One key role the peer mentors performed was teaching the incoming students strategies for student success including time management, working in groups, and study skills. Assessment of how well the program met the outcomes and specific learning objectives was conducted in an electronic survey following the program and follow-up focus groups towards the end of their first semester. Students indicate the program was successful in meeting all of the objectives, particularly familiarizing students with the University, building community, and introducing students to the engineering design process through the service learning project. Revisions of the math, writing, and study skills components are planned for the second pilot program to more closely integrate them with the engineering projects.


© 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. This article originally appeared in the proceedings of the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference, and can also be found online at this link.
Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.