Proven professional development strategies: Data from an eng transfer student scholarship-projects-mentoring success program

Armando A. Rodriguez, Nirangkush Das, Brent Wallace, Phil Blake McBride, Clark Vangilder, Tim S. Frank, John W. Griffith, Russell Cox, Eddie W. Ong, Ernest Moulinet Villicana, Celia Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This DEED paper addresses the following fundamental question - a question impacting institutions across the nation: How can 4-year institutions best prepare engineering and computer science students (hereafter denoted ENG) for the many opportunities and challenges that they may encounter as they progress into their junior and senior years? These include paid project/research opportunities, career fairs, internships, graduate school and a rapidly changing job market. Our focus, at Arizona State University's (ASU's) Fulton Schools of Engineering, has been on a longstanding ENG scholarship-projects-mentoring program at our four year ENG institution - a program serving mostly upper-division transfer students (generally about 70%), some upper-division non-transfers (~25%) and scholars continuing as graduate students (~5%) that have progressed through the program. Despite this, the ideas presented are useful for all ENG students. We want students to become aware, take control, and pursue excellence (ACE). As they take control, we specifically want them to set SMART goals - goals that are specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and timely. How can this be best promoted? To address the above issues, we have developed key instruments for program scholars. These instruments are designed to accommodate three common scholar pathways: (1) project and/or internship, graduate with BS, transition directly into ENG workforce (targeting/pursued by about 40% of our scholars), (2) project and/or internship, graduate with ENG BS, pursue accelerated 4+1 ENG MS, transition into ENG workforce (targeting/pursued by about 50% of our scholars), and (3) project and/or internship, graduate with BS-graduate ENG, pursue graduate ENG school or other professional degree (targeting/pursued by about 10% of our scholars). Our instruments (exploiting an active/project-based learning constructivist pedagogical approach) include - in addition to seminars, videos, and a website - outlines and sample student materials for each of the following: (1) interest paper to help students choose a technical area for a career-steering/shaping projects (required of all scholars), (2) a career fair plea/pitch accompanied by a resume, cover letter and career coaching to help them choose/target relevant companies, (3) a comprehensive career plan to look 10 years past graduation, (4) a statement of purpose to prepare for graduate school, fellowships, starting a company and more advanced pursuits, (5) effective research-based learning and time-management skills to manage academics as well as professional development. The latter exploits time-tested ideas from the “Guaranteed 4.0 Learning System,” “Make It Stick,” “How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching,” “Cognition in Education” and Critical thinking. Associated with each instrument is a comprehensive survey. Two cohorts are considered and compared (Fall 2017 - 90 scholars, Spring 2018 - 74 scholars). We specifically examine the following “at risk” groups - making comparisons to the cohort: women, underrepresented minorities, younger scholars (< 21 years old), scholars that have not done a project and/or internship, scholars working 10 or more hours, married scholars, scholars with children, scholars from low income families, and scholars whose parents had no college. Our analysis shows that our instruments and practices, overall, are very effective; with at risk groups (as one might expect) sometimes struggling a bit more than others but still excelling. Ideas for improving the latter are also presented. A context diversity theoretic analysis is presented; i.e. individuals from “high risk” groups tend to be “high context” individuals - requiring more “big picture/holistic” details, group interactions, instruction via demonstration, individual attention, etc. versus the “low context” approach that our Western (British-inherited) educational system continues to support. Our data shows that high context individuals are usually concerned with shorter-term issues and struggle more with picking a project area (required of all scholars) and getting started. Specific ideas for addressing this - leveraging our growing community of practice - are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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