Work-based Experiential Learning in IT: Career Enhancement for Underserved Students at a 2-year HSI

Cynthia Pickering, Mara Lopez, Katy Pinto, Gloria Gonzalez, Marcus Jerome Garcia, Caroline Vaningen-Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


In the midst of the pandemic, a 2-year Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in metropolitan Phoenix launched the Information Technology Institute (ITI), and a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored program to provide culturally responsive work-based experiential learning opportunities for adult students balancing multiple jobs and responsibilities. This paper discusses the benefits to students in gaining IT experience alongside industry mentors, how peer mentoring increases engagement, and the challenges of hybrid delivery during the pandemic. Two types of paid opportunities were designed and are currently in pilot mode to provide real-world IT experience for undergraduate students: 1) externships situated on-campus, under the supervision of faculty and assisted by peer-mentors and industry mentors and 2) internships situated with local companies under the supervision of industry employees. When career preparedness elements were interwoven while learning and practicing new IT skills within hands-on project deliverables, externs reported benefits such as increased confidence in seeking out employment opportunities, preparing for interviews, professional networking, leadership development, and conveying their industry experience in their resumes and on LinkedIn. Lessons learned to date related to engaging and retaining targeted students include the need to: prioritize student well-being and work/life balance, pay students during the externships or internships, intentionally immerse students within the work-based experiences, provide continual guidance and structuring on projects where students own a specific work deliverable - yet collaborate, incorporate culturally responsive mentoring from peers, faculty, and industry to meet students where they are in terms of technical and professional skills, design flexibility into the work schedule, and accommodate both virtual and in person work sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Work-based Experiential Learning in IT: Career Enhancement for Underserved Students at a 2-year HSI'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this