Recognizing current and future needs for a diverse skilled workforce in mechanical engineering and the rising cost of higher education that acts as a barrier for many talented students with interests in engineering, the project focuses resources and research on financial support coupled with curricular and co-curricular activities designed to facilitate student degree attainment, career development, and employability in STEM-related jobs. The Mechanical Engineering (ME) S-STEM Program at UMBC has provided enhanced educational opportunities to more than 90 economically disadvantaged and academically talented undergraduate students in the ME Department in the past eight years. It is expected that approximately 45 academically talented and financially needy students, including students transferring from Maryland community colleges to four-year engineering programs will receive scholarship support in the next 5 years, with an average amount of $6,000 per year for up to four years to earn degrees in mechanical engineering at UMBC.
Through scholarships and supplemental support services, this program promotes full-time enrollment and will elevate the scholastic achievement of the S-STEM scholars, with a special emphasis on females and/or underrepresented minorities. It will provide a holistic and novel educational experience combining science, engineering, technology and medicine to improve student retention and future career prospects. The project builds on an established partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Maryland community colleges to improve and investigate the transfer experience of community college students to four-year programs, student retention at UMBC, and job placement and pathways to graduate school and employment. The mixed methods quantitative and qualitative research study will examine the implementation and outcomes of proactive recruitment; selected high impact practices, such as orientation, one-to-one faculty mentoring, peer mentoring, and community building; participation by students in research-focused activities, such as research seminars and undergraduate experiences; and participation by students in career and professional development activities.