Successful undergraduate summer research experience for minority students
Minority student enrollment in engineering graduate programs continues to be a challenge especially among Hispanics. A relatively small number of Hispanics in undergraduate engineering programs decide to continue their education once they receive a bachelor degree. An array of factors affects each the student decision making process and commitment to pursue advanced degrees. Fortunately, many top ranked universities in the US have outreach summer programs to help guide undergraduate students through the unpredictable world of graduate studies. Unfortunately, many minority students do not know these programs exist nor know how to fully take advantage of the unique opportunities they offer. Outreach programs should have a strong marketing component to be completely successful. One successful way to increase minority participation in undergraduate summer programs is by active participation and involvement of faculty members at both ends of the outreach program. In this paper, a successful approach used in the recruiting of minority students is presented. The approach consists in networking faculty members at top ranked universities with faculty at minority serving institutions, who can help identify potential students. Once minority students are invited to participate in a particular undergraduate research program, the designated faculty should closely monitors the students' performance. In a typical outreach program, students are quickly introduced to an interesting research project and asked to perform a variety of tasks and activities similar to the ones assigned to any regular graduate students. They include literature search and review, organization and selection of research ideas and results, and development and implementation of a research plan. Students are highly encouraged to be self-reliant, innovative, highly motivated, organized and methodical which are necessary characteristics of any successful graduate student in graduate school. In the paper, a specific case study is presented, which discusses the importance of assessing the students abilities and skills early in the program to ensure successful completion of the research program objectives. Finally, a list of successful outcomes and recommendations are presented. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2006.
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