The most succinct summary of RISE Research Findings to date would be to emphasize the importance of a positive academic culture on the recruitment and retention of engineering students. A positive culture recognizes that there are many pathways to the goal of graduating with an engineering degree, requiring different amounts of time and types of emotional and intellectual energy. A positive culture does not promote nor endorse preconceptions about students, but recognizes that all students come to education with a unique and valuable set of characteristics and experiences. Furthermore, a positive culture is inclusive and offers appropriate supportive opportunities for students with each of those characteristics and attributes. Finally, a positive culture engages in open communication ensuring that all students are informed of the formal and informal rules governing their engineering education and receive equitable treatment and opportunities under those rules.

The following recommendations to faculty, staff, academic administrators, and others involved in engineering education come from RISE research publications. These recommendations foster the creation of the positive culture described above.

Specific Recommendations

Administrators must be wary of intent-impact conflict in the design of programs to serve students. Intent-impact conflict refers to unforeseen and negative consequences of well-meaning programs or policies. References

Educate faculty, staff, and students for cultural competency, awareness of stereotypes and unconscious biases. Cultural competence requires that one value the contributions, knowledge and worth of members of different groups. Cultural competence derives from an awareness and understanding of different cultures and allows respectful communication between members of different social and cultural groups including race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, ability, language, or socioeconomic statuses. References

Institutional programs must support all minority student populations. Minority should not be defined strictly based on racial/ethnic difference, nor on underrepresentation. References

The institution must develop advising and mentoring programs that recognize the differences existing within racial/ethnic groups, social classes, and gender identifications. References

Institutional programs must assist students in acquiring the appropriate social and cultural capital needed for success within the dominant culture of the academy. Cultural capital is the distinctive cultural knowledge (e.g. how to apply for financial aid, what is meant by office hours) that equips one to succeed in a particular environment, e.g. higher education. Social capital refers to the people and resources one has available to support an endeavor, e.g. parents who have been to college. References

Recognize that discrimination occurs even in the absence of reported discrimination. Certain cultures disapprove of complaining, challenging authority or even acknowledging discrimination; furthermore, students can be highly reluctant to report a professor because of fear of retaliation. References

Racial/ethnic-based student organizations must be structured in ways that honor the differences within the group and can serve the needs of all of the racial/ethnic group members. References

General education requirements for U.S. institutions need to include a multi-cultural perspective on race issues in the U.S. References

Recognize that students who are members of a minority group may lack understanding of diversity, inclusion, stereotypes (even of their own group), and how minority group membership interacts with U.S. culture. References

Moderating institutional promotion of student experiential competition team images and competition performance might open opportunities for students who have financial or personal constraints that preclude extraordinary time commitment. References

Faculty and staff advisors must take an active role in over-sight of student organization leadership and activities and develop understanding of the cultural issues and tensions inherent in the organizations. References

Provide leadership and management instruction, mentorship, and guidance for students leading organizations and for all members of student experiential learning competition teams. Leadership and management skills are not innate. ‘Sink or swim’ is wasteful of resources and contributes to exclusion. References References

Dissemination of institutional information and informal knowledge and advice must reach all students without prejudice. Examples of informal knowledge and advice would include: value of student organization membership or strategies for succeeding in notorious courses or with difficult professors. References

The academic and professional benefits of co-operative and internship placements must be promoted to all students without prejudice. References

Administrators must be aware that budget priorities, staffing, and physical space location and allocation contain powerful messages to students about priorities and inclusion. References

If a student begins calculus sequence at a community college and has marginal performance, the student must be encouraged to complete the calculus sequence at the community college. Based on RISE data, transferring partial sequences of calculus courses with minimally acceptable grades imposed difficulty in the subsequent calculus courses taken at the receiving institution. Whereas, either transferring a partial sequence with better grades or transferring the entire sequence, even with minimally acceptable grades, did not result in subsequent difficulties. References

Student advocates need to be aware that peer-advising messages can be either beneficial or detrimental, for example – regarding concurrent transfer. Concurrent transfer courses are courses taken at a community or regional college during an active semester or between two semesters of enrollment at a senior institution, usually during summers. References

Actively and clearly promote the fields of engineering by informing students of both the degree requirements and the career options afforded from the different engineering degrees. References

Departments must facilitate multiple entry points into the curriculum as few students new to engineering have the background knowledge or resources to know unequivocally where they best fit among the engineering disciplines. Multiple entry points allow students who may have never been exposed to engineering to choose engineering or to change engineering disciplines after matriculation without significantly extending their time to graduation. References

Recognize that students who have difficulties in one engineering discipline can thrive in another. References

Departments endeavoring to attract and retain diverse students must promote a professional image that is multi-faceted, clearly defined, and relevant to students’ lives. References

Authentic representation of degree programs as challenging, but achievable, may enhance recruiting and retention of future and existing students. Engineering students are not necessarily looking for easy ways out. They often recognize that many valuable things do not come easily. References

Departments need to employ personable, caring faculty as well as satisfied, influential student ambassadors to effectively promote the department and recruit prospective students. References

Foster a collegial and inclusive department culture of faculty who demonstrate a genuine interest in students’ academic futures and provide encouragement. References

Encourage students to adopt mastery oriented goals instead of performance oriented goals. References

Faculty need to recognize the value of and incorporate appropriate challenges for students in their classes. Students seek and desire challenges and appreciate faculty who provide attainable challenges. Pedagogically this goal may be accomplished using constructivist techniques. References

Faculty must be available by appointment for students with conflicts during office hours. Students should not have to choose between earning income for tuition and food and seeking academic help. References

Faculty must be cognizant of inadvertently supporting an insider vs. outsider dynamic and the presence of cliques in their classrooms. References

Recognize and correct inappropriate intra-group interactions in class group-work. References

Engineering student advisors need to be aware of and often mediate students’ perceptions of required, outside-of-major courses (e.g. calculus and physics) and faculty that can undermine student confidence and their commitment to an engineering degree. For example, the grading schema used in some physics classes can destroy students’ self-efficacy. References

Recognize that families have a strong influence on academic success for many students, including members of minority groups. References

Faculty reward structures must recognize the value and complexities of qualitative methodologies and of interdisciplinary approaches for engineering education research. References

Academic administrators must support and recognize the value of the work of engineering education researchers. References