$5 million from NSF to enable transfer students to earn engineering degrees

transfer student doing research in a lab.

OWith a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of California, San Diego is leading a new effort to support low-income transfer students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The five-year program, called EMPOWER, will support engineering students at UC San Diego and two nearby community colleges, Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., and Imperial Valley College in Imperial, Calif., who strive to close opportunity gaps with a full cohort. achievement-based programs and significant scholarships.

In addition to improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students who participate directly, the program is designed to identify and document the most effective combinations of strategies to increase the rate at which students starting at community colleges across the country graduate. eventually bachelor’s degrees in engineering.

The EMPOWER program will provide transfer students studying engineering at UC San Diego, as well as engineering students at Southwestern College and Imperial Valley College, both of which are Hispanic-serving institutions, a wide range of engaging and community-building academic and social experiences. . Additionally, participating students will receive a significant scholarship during the academic year as well as paid summer research opportunities. This year-round financial support is designed to reduce or eliminate the need for these students to work part-time while pursuing an engineering degree.

electrical engineering transfer students at Transfer Triton Day.

This EMPOWER program is part of an NSF effort called S-STEM (scholarships in STEM) which is designed to enable low-income students with academic ability, talent, or potential to pursue successful careers in promising fields of science. science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Getting an engineering degree is hard, there’s no two ways to get there,” said Bill Lin, professor and chair of UC San Diego’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and principal investigator of the EMPOWER grant. “With this new program, we are bringing together several strategies to support low-income students transferring into engineering through graduation. The EMPOWER program is not a single summer research program or a single preparatory course , it is a comprehensive multi-year program coupled with foundational scholarships. It is the totality and holistic nature of the program that will enable students to obtain an engineering degree.

EMPOWER scholarship recipients

In addition to financial support for accepted EMPOWER Scholars in the form of scholarships, the program is based on a research framework grounded in Schlossberg’s Transitions Theory, which shows that high-impact practices such as a strong peer network and access to mentors have huge impact on student success. The EMPOWER program will create an end-to-end, cohort-based program designed to provide students with mentorship and guidance from faculty and alumni; a peer group of EMPOWER Fellows to cultivate a sense of belonging; and academic interventions, including workshops and summer research opportunities.

Transfer students from UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.

The first cohorts of EMPOWER Scholars at community college partner campuses are expected to begin in the spring semester of 2023, one at both Imperial Valley College and Southwestern College, with the first cohort expected to begin at UC San Diego in the spring or in winter. term of 2023. Community college students are welcome to apply to UC San Diego, but may continue to any four-year university. Transfer students from other community colleges are eligible to join the UC San Diego cohort, which is open to low-income students pursuing a degree in any department of the Jacobs School of Engineering.

EMPOWER Scholars at the community college level will receive a $7,500 scholarship per year, and UC San Diego Scholars will receive a $10,000 scholarship per year. EMPOWER Scholars will also participate in an undergraduate summer research experience with a $5,000 stipend.

“Imperial Valley College is thrilled at the opportunity to partner with UC San Diego to provide our students with the opportunity to pursue engineering programs,” said Jill Nelipovich, professor of math and engineering. at Imperial Valley College and Co-Principal Investigator of EMPOWER. “UC San Diego was integral to the launch of our engineering program and now this partnership will empower underrepresented students by helping them with financial support and the professional growth necessary for success. It is an honor to work in collaboration to develop programs for the benefit of our engineering students.

While the cohort model is designed to help provide EMPOWER Scholars with a network of peers and a sense of belonging, access to faculty and former mentors is intended to help students learn what is possible with a degree. engineers and imagine themselves in roles they may not have previously known existed.

“We at Southwestern College (SWC) are extremely honored to partner with UC San Diego on this groundbreaking grant,” said Dmitriy Kalantarov, assistant professor of engineering at Southwestern College and co-principal investigator of the EMPOWER program. “Research has shown that students who participate in these types of cohort models with research and mentorship not only have better persistence in STEM and higher GPAs, but these outcomes transcend socioeconomic status, race and gender. . We look forward to launching this grant and strengthening our ties between the two schools. »

A collective impact approach

Lin is also collaborating with co-principal investigators Jill Nelipovich, professor of engineering at Imperial Valley College, as well as UC San Diego faculty Karcher Morris, teaching professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Olivia Graeve, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; David Artis, Dean of Undergraduate Research Advancement; and Jaclyn Duerr, manager of the Transfer Student Success program at UC San Diego. The EMPOWER program is a collaboration between the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Undergraduate Research Hub at UC San Diego.

UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering students.

The cross-campus collaborative team will build on the experience and successes of existing enrichment programs run by the undergraduate research center, as well as programs housed in the IDEA Engineering Student Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering from UC San Diego, to leverage the campus. Collective impact approach when it comes to supporting low-income transfer students.

The EMPOWER program’s goal of closing the opportunity gap for transfer engineering students is aligned with the campus’ collective impact strategy. The interdisciplinary, multi-campus team will use the same shared metrics, a mutually reinforcing action plan, and ongoing communication with program participants and co-investigators to identify the effectiveness of EMPOWER program tactics and share insights. strategies that prove to be the most effective and efficient. what lessons can be implemented elsewhere to reduce the impact of inequitable distribution of resources or opportunities for other groups of students.

“It’s fantastic that the NSF has recognized the EMPOWER program’s multi-pronged strategy to close the opportunity gap for low-income transfer students pursuing an engineering degree,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth H. Simmons. “It’s exactly this kind of cross-functional, comprehensive solution that leverages the collective efforts of partners across our campus and region that will successfully deliver more talented and diverse engineers for our company.”

Leave a Reply