In October 2011 the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Northridge, was awarded a five-year, $5.5 million HSI STEM grant by the U.S. Department of Education to implement a program designed to increase the number of low-income, Hispanic and other underrepresented students graduating from CSUN with engineering and computer science majors. This collaborative project entitled AIMS² (for Attract, Inspire, Mentor and Support Students) is led by CSUN, in partnership with Glendale Community College (GCC) and the College of the Canyons (COC). Students enrolled in the AIMS² cohorts have access to special mentoring and advisement by faculty, tutoring and peer mentoring, social activities, field trips and opportunities to take part in summer research projects. Students enrolled in the program receive a stipend to motivate and inspire them to succeed. Outreach activities by cohort students to other colleges and high schools helps raise awareness of the grant and encourages future students.
The goals and objectives of the new 2016 grant are:
- Improve the academic achievement of Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science fields.
- Enhance faculty and peer environments for Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science fields.
- Improve the transfer of Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science fields to baccalaureate-granting institutions.
- Improve career preparation of Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science fields.
- Develop research skills of Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science.
- Increase baccalaureate degree completion of Hispanic and low-income students in engineering and computer science fields.
The new grant serves incoming students at all levels including First Time Freshmen and Transfers. It includes all the high impact practices from the previous grant (Tutoring, Mentoring, and Undergraduate Research), plus the large college wide initiatives to improve retention and the math preparation of our majors. Both at the community colleges and CSUN there is an increased emphasis on the career preparation and degree completion by the students.
Big Picture Outcomes:
- Data for the quantitative measures (n=49) reveal that 22 (or 45%) measures met or exceed project targets.
- Results for all qualitative measures (n=7/7) point to improvement in quality of peer-peer interaction, student-faculty interaction, research participation.
- All four project measures – transfer, course articulation, and completion met or exceeded project targets during the evaluation period.
- All 3 non-cohort measures – Counselor STEM PD at GCC/COC, academic advisors at CSUN– met or exceeded project targets.
- Transfer achievement exceeded target; 47 new CSUN transfer students entered in 2015-16 from COC/GCC in a field housed in CECS.
- This represented a 131% increase over the project target (n=36), and a 224% increase over baseline figure (n=21) from 2010-11.
- Program completion exceeded target during the evaluation period.
- 31.4% (49/156) completed a degree program for the most recent period vs. 30.9% (21/68) project target.
- This represents an increase over first project year of 29.3% (22/75) and a decrease over the fourth project year of 36.5% (72/197). However, we note that the overall heads counts are up compared to the past.
- COC/GCC academic advising was up across all cohorts.
- Student-faculty interaction at all three campuses dramatically increased during the period.
- COC/GCC/CSUN showed strong student participation in CSUN faculty sponsored research projects.
- CSUN supplemental labs increased.
The overall project focus in the final year of the project (Year 6) is to increase number of advising sessions with GCC/COC/CSUN cohort participants by strengthening faculty mentor roles. Also with more mature cohorts (senior-standing) we are exploring career-preparation/advising as the focus of interaction. Given that peer-mentoring seems to be central to student experiences we will consider coordinated efforts for COC/GCC students to be peer mentored by CSUN students in sustained relationships where frequent, meaningful interaction occurs.