Engineering Pathways in a U.S. Public Institution of Higher Education: A Strategy for Fostering Student Diversity

Engineering Pathways in a U.S. Public Institution of Higher Education: A Strategy for Fostering Student Diversity

Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala (Colorado State University, USA) and Anthony Maciejewski (Colorado State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2212-6.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter relates a strategy that emerged from a larger effort of a land-grant institution in the U.S. to more rapidly increase the number of international students on campus and diversify its student body through the development and implementation of pathway programs. Pathway students are international students that do not meet the criteria for direct entry into a university due to lower levels of English language proficiency and/or GPA. The authors discuss strategies for ensuring success in these endeavors.
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Background On Internationalization In U.S. Engineering Programs

In order to make sense of the challenges and potential opportunities for U.S. engineering programs discussed later in this chapter in relation to the topic of diversity, it is important to understand some of the historical context. The exact details regarding the degree of internationalization vary significantly across institutions, engineering disciplines, and type of program (i.e., undergraduate or graduate degree programs). However, it is possible to make some generalizations, especially across large land-grant institutions that traditionally have had large engineering programs and share similar histories.

In particular, the undergraduate engineering programs of land-grant institutions, as is the case at CSU, tend to be well established because they were a major motivation for the creation of such institutions. (For more information on land-grant institutions, see http://www.aplu.org/about-us/history-of-aplu/what-is-a-land-grant-university/). They also have a history of serving the local state population based on the premise of providing a degree that allowed the state’s population to improve their standard of living. Thus, many of the early students of such programs were first generation, and this tradition continues. Likewise, until recently, very few of these programs had significant numbers of international students among their ranks. So efforts to internationalize these programs constitute institutional priorities

The landscape for graduate programs in engineering can be quite different from the undergraduate programs. But here too, it varies from discipline to discipline. Using Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) as an example, we can say that, for many years, ECE graduate programs have been dominated by the presence of international students. For these students, a U.S. graduate degree in ECE is a very valuable commodity because it frequently opens the doors to employment in the U.S.-based high-tech industry, and definitely gives international students a point of considerable advantage when returning home or going to other countries in pursuit of employment. This results in a situation where the size of an ECE program’s graduate population is not limited by the number of qualified students, but by the capacity constraints of delivering a quality educational experience for students in the program. That is, resources must be allocated for departments to properly serve all students. In other words, ideally, as enrollment grows, resources should grow proportionately. Yet we know that this is not always the case. Consequently, when a university, such as CSU, embarks on adopting new initiatives to increase international enrolments, one can foresee not only the benefits of increasing diversity, but also the challenges that can also emerge.

In the next section, we introduce the concept of a public private partnership to increase international enrollments, and thus impact diversity at a university. This discussion is intended to situate the more specific example of CSU that will follow.

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