STILAS: STEM intercultural leadership ambassador scholars in biology, marine biology, and engineering

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Publication Date



Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in engineering, both nationally and at Roger Williams University. In 2012, women constituted just 12% of engineering graduates at the university, while minorities constituted just 4%. In an effort to boost the enrollment, performance, and persistence of underrepresented students, the university applied for and received an NSF SSTEM grant to integrate engineering, biology, and marine biology students into an existing program supporting underrepresented students on campus. The combined program, known as STILAS, provides participants with a $10, 000 NSF scholarship, supplemented by the university, as well as dedicated tutoring and advising, and co-curricular activities such as field trips and guest speakers. Midway through the final year of the 5-year grant, the results are impressive. Nine of the ten engineering student participants have either graduated in four years in engineering or are on track to do so (the tenth changed major to mathematics), compared to just 57% of women and 25% of underrepresented minorities entering the engineering program in 2011 or 2012. The STILAS engineering students' combined GPA is 3.60, compared to 3.30 for all women and 2.56 for all underrepresented minorities currently enrolled in engineering. The program has benefited non-participants as well: persistence of women in engineering has increased from 54% of those entering in 2011 to 92% of those entering in 2013 or after. Women made up 31% of the graduating class of 2016, 2.5 times greater than the proportion in 2012. Persistence of underrepresented minorities has increased from 29% for those entering in 2011 to 50% for those entering in 2013 or after. Unfortunately, total enrollment of underrepresented minorities has not grown. The recruitment of underrepresented students has proven more challenging than their retention. Future work will focus on recruitment, including outreach to local high schools and the development of bridge and/or transfer programs.





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