Lamar University researchers in industrial and mechanical engineering have been awarded a $625,300 grant from the National Science Foundation for a special program to increase the numbers of students underrepresented in engineering.

The program, titled Industrial and Mechanical Engineering Scholars with Scholarships, Career Mentoring, Outreach and Advisement, Professional Societies and Engineering Learning Community (SCOPE), will serve three cohorts, totaling 36 scholars, in the five-year project.  The award starts September 1, 2015 is will continue through August 2020.

 

The program will help to recruit and retain industrial or mechanical engineering students, and will reduce the graduation time of these students.

 

Mechanical and industrial engineering students will be selected for participation based on financial need and academic ability. The project will provide scholarship funding for students pursuing bachelor degrees in industrial or mechanical engineering. The scholarships will be complemented by academic support including mentoring, tutoring and undergraduate research opportunities.

The program will allow the university to offer scholarships to directly address an area of national concern: maintaining US industrial competitiveness. Scholarships for academically strong engineering students, who may not otherwise be able to afford college, have an impact on the number of engineering graduates prepared to help national, regional and local companies.

 

The diversity present at Lamar provides an opportunity to broaden the participation of groups currently underrepresented in engineering fields. Recognized for its economic and racial diversity, more than 40 percent of Lamar’s student population is from groups currently underrepresented in engineering. In the past decade, the number of African-American students has more than doubled and the number of Hispanic students has tripled at the university.

 

“This program will target students from sophomore to senior years and provide the support needed to help ensure degree completion,” said Weihang Zhu, associate professor of industrial engineering. “Support activities will include enhanced academic advising, career advising, academic support through supplemental tutoring, peer monitoring and undergraduate research opportunities.”

 

Resources from engineering professional societies will be engaged to help scholars to pass professional exams, and an engineering learning community will be formed to help student in the program as well.

 

“The project will address not only the intrinsic difficulties of degree completion when faced with financial instability, but also the difficulties that engineering students experience as they decide upon a career in an engineering discipline,” Zhu said. The strategy results will be assessed to determine the effectiveness of continuous intervention in retaining low-income engineering students and will contribute to the development of the best practices for retaining low income and talented students in engineering, Zhu said.

 

Zhu is serving as the principal investigator for the grant, with participation by co-principal investigators Hsing Wei Chu, chair and professor of mechanical engineering; Brian Craig, chair and professor of industrial engineering; James Curry, associate professor of industrial engineering; and Jenny Zhou, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

 

For more information about opportunities at Lamar visit BeACardinal.com, or lamar.edu/engineering.