Assessing objective attainment in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program focused on community college students

Jorge Loyo-Rosales, Armineh Noravian, Alison Cook-Davis, Carrie A. Obenland, Carolyn Nichol

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As part of the Engineering Research Center (ERC) Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center has run a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program every summer since 2016. Starting in 2017, the NEWT REU program focuses on offering research experience to community college students from the metropolitan areas of the center's partner universities: Phoenix for Arizona State University (ASU), Houston for Rice University (Rice), and El Paso for the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The objectives of the NEWT REU program are specified in NEWT's logic model, and they are to (1) provide community college students, especially from underrepresented minorities in science and engineering (URM), with professional research experience in NEWT laboratories, (2) improve the program participants' communication skills, specifically poster elaboration and presentation, (3) increase the number of URM students choosing to pursue careers or graduate studies in NEWT-related STEM fields, and (4) improve the mentorship skills of NEWT graduate students and postdocs participating as mentors. The NEWT REU program is run by NEWT staff from Rice and the participants are placed for ten weeks in NEWT laboratories at ASU, Rice, and UTEP, where they are generally mentored by graduate students. From the inception of the program, NEWT has collaborated with the University Office of Evaluation and Educational Effectiveness (UOEEE) at ASU to formulate the logic model and to provide external evaluation of the program. Evaluation is based on a social constructivism epistemological approach which assumes individual perceptions are relative and that reality is constructed socially. Therefore, participants' perspectives obtained through interviews are used to provide insight on their perception of the REU experience. Evaluation of the 2018 REU cohort (9 out of 11 students were interviewed) showed that the first two program objectives are being met-objectives 3 and 4 require long term longitudinal data for evaluation. In addition, the constructivist approach yielded qualitative information that allowed for more specific program appraisal. For example, the evaluation revealed that participants observed improvement in communication skills beyond those stated in the objectives (i.e., poster elaboration and presentation), such as being trained in how to read peer-reviewed articles. The evaluation also provided a more nuanced understanding of the quality of the participants' interaction with their mentors, allowing for better planning of mentor training in subsequent cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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