Strengthening Pathways for the Domestic Graduate Engineering Workforce and Future Professoriate: Increasing Access to Engineering Master's Programs

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention into graduate school and subsequent graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at The Pennsylvania State University. Over its 6-year duration, this project will attract and fund scholarships to 45 full-time students who are pursuing master's degrees in engineering disciplines. Students will receive 2-year scholarships and participate in programming designed to impact academic and social success. Project activities will include intentional strategies to increase interest, applications, and enrollment in engineering master's programs. In addition, retention activities such as mentoring (group and individual) and professional development programming will be offered for the two years of the scholars' programs of study. Finally, the project plans to build skill in inclusive mentoring for 54 faculty members that will have impact beyond the duration of this project. By financially supporting the 'hidden' population of low-income graduate students, the project expects to improve students' socio-economic mobility. Furthermore, an expanded pool of domestic engineers with advanced degrees who are more diverse will be poised to take on greater leadership and mentorship positions within the STEM workforce. The project will also foster a culture of inclusion and sustained success in the recruitment and matriculation of underserved graduate students broadly defined, by educating a critical mass of faculty in inclusive mentorship practices. Finally, the achievement of a master's degree in engineering will likely foster interest in doctoral programs for some of the scholars, thus increasing the potential pool of future engineering faculty, which is an urgent national need. These potential new faculty will serve as role models for other low-income students in the future, and this overall approach has strong potential to be replicated at other institutions to increase the numbers of domestic faculty in engineering.

The intellectual merit of the project is based on examining high-achieving low-income master's student socialization and successful program completion through the lens of Expectancy Value, Self-Efficacy, and Role Identity theories. The broad goals are to facilitate the professional advancement of engineering master's students, grow and diversify the engineering workforce, and sustain an inclusive environment in the Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering by developing a community of faculty skilled in inclusive mentoring. Using multifaceted data collection within a mixed methods study, the project team expects that triangulated qualitative and quantitative data will yield a rich understanding of master's student socialization and successful program completion. Best practices in graduate student transitions and identity formation will be disseminated. This project has the potential to extend what we know about exemplary mentoring of underrepresented minority students to low-income students. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically-talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/219/30/27


  • National Science Foundation: $1,500,000.00


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