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College of Engineering aims to expand student growth, success with new grant

The College of Engineering received nearly $100,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Education and Centers for a planning grant to broaden the participation and advance the recruitment, education, and retention of engineering students in Idaho.

The project, led by college Dean JoAnn S. Lighty, aims to establish the college as a Hispanic “serving” college within the next five years by building an identity that serves rather than merely enrolls students.

“Our approach is to look at math placement, curriculum, as well as how we teach and build communities in the college,” she said. “All of these are important to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students, in particular our rural, Latinx, first generation and pell-grant eligible students which are the focus of this grant.”

In Idaho, the Latinx population represents approximately 13 percent of the general population and is the largest underserved population in Idaho. Over the last decade, the Latinx community accounted for 24 percent of the state’s growth and has provided a 31 percent employment growth since 2009, especially in southern Idaho.

The College of Engineering will build upon existing relationships with the College of Western Idaho, which is an emerging Hispanic-serving institution, and the College of Southern Idaho, which became a Hispanic-serving institution in 2021.

“The grant provides us the opportunity to take stock of the progress our institutions have already made to serve our Hispanic students,” said co-investigator and Associate Professor of organizational performance and workplace learning Vicki Stieha. “Building systemic support on our three involved campuses will not only help us achieve our important goal, but also with individual student success.”

The research team will examine potentially transformative features such as improving pathways and placement for transfer students from community colleges, intentional community building practices, and create a more transparent educational system that Idaho students can easily navigate on their way to a baccalaureate degree in engineering, computer science or construction management.

This grant is part of a larger effort by the College of Engineering to strengthen partnerships with Idaho community colleges, expand engineering and computer science, and serve Idaho’s students, in particular our rural communities.

Last week, the college announced it was the recipient of the state’s largest NSF scholarships in STEM grant of nearly $5 million to build a consortium of engineering and computer science scholars through $3.6 million in student scholarships with College of Southern Idaho and College of Western Idaho.

The college also announced that Senior Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Affairs Diana Garza received a fellowship to the fourth cohort of La Academia de Liderazgo of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

For more information and news about the College of Engineering, visit the College of Engineering website.