ELCIR – Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research: Supporting Engineering First Generation Students Success – High Impact Research Abroad Experience


The National Academy of Engineering states that a core need for engineers is to be able to work with a diverse, multinational, and multidisciplinary workforce. One way to prepare students for this challenging global environment is to encourage students to participate in study abroad programs. While there is consent among international educators in the need to do more to prepare students to succeed in the global economy, there is still a large portion of students who will not or cannot take advantage of these high impact educational opportunities. Some of the barriers for students to study abroad includes cost, lack of knowledge of the system, curriculum and culture. This is especially true for low-income first generation students, many whom are also ethnic minority students.

The College of Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) has set two ambitious goals, to increase diversity in engineering and to better prepare the engineers to join today’s global and dynamic workforce. Issues to be addressed: 1) increase the retention of underrepresented minority (URM) and first generation students in engineering, 2) enhance the participation of those students in engineering research and study abroad programs, and 3) pave the way for those students to enroll in graduate programs in STEM areas.

To  increase the number of students studying abroad,more specifically low-income, first  generation  students, the college of engineering’s Access and Inclusion and Global Engineering Programs partnered with the Office for Higher Education in  Merida, Yucatan in Mexico and launched in 2015, the Engineering Learning Community Introduction to Research for Regents’ Scholars (first generation students who received a $20,000 dollars to attend this land-grant  university). For the first year of the program,17 low-income, minority, and first generation students were selected via an application process and participated in the program. On the second  year,  8 students were selected.This program is unique in that it engages freshman  students  from  the  very  onset  of  their  engineering  careers in four rich experiences, which  are  the  pillars  behind  the creation of this program: 1) a  hands-on research class, allowing  students to identify  their  own  research  problem with  the support of faculty and researchers,  2) a  high impact  global  experience, 3) engagement  with  first-class researchers and research  centers, and 4)  a  poster  presentation  of  their  research  results  at  the  end  of  the course to peers, faculty, and administrators. As part of the ELCIR program, students register: in a  one-credit research course, travel to Mexico to become immersed in binational research projects executed in major research labs, and write a research proposal. Another unique aspect of this program is the synergy with the  Yucatan  Initiative, a collaboration effort between researchers from TAMU and researchers from SIIDETEY,  the Yucatan Research Consortium sponsored by the Yucatan government.

The program started with a 2 weeks research experience in Mexico at the end of the spring semester, where students took an introduction to research course and explored various research sites. The program continued throughout the summer with an online learning community class where students were guided on how to write a research proposal. To close the program student participated in a poster session where they presented their research proposal to a group of faculty members, peer students and administrators of the college of engineering.

This presentation is about how the program was implemented, the outcomes of the program and the impact on the students based on the analyses of a pre and two post surveys. The focus of this paper is on the global competencies developed by the students as a result of this program.

Transfer Students