About

step overview

History of STEP

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In 2004, through a very competitive process, Western Michigan University was awarded a STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant from the National Science Foundation to implement "Student and Faculty Learning Communities to Increase Graduation Rates in STEM Disciplines" (award #0336581). STEP included placing students in a cohort learning community. Progressing through the first year of college as a cohort allows students to build social and academic connections with each other, thus easing the transition from high school to college and helping students form study groups. The STEP grant has resulted in a 39 percent increase in the retention of seniors in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Recognizing that the cognitive and effective development of students are intertwined and that students spend a significant amount of time outside of the classroom, the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Division of Student Affairs collaborated and was awarded a second NSF STEP grant in 2010 titled "Effective Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration to Enhance Student Success in Engineering and Applied Sciences" (award #0969287). In May of 2016 the NSF grant will end and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will continue to fund STEP into the future.

 

Step Cohorts and learning communities

More than 90 percent of incoming first-year CEAS students are placed in cohorts of 15-25 students based on math placement and major, and they take the same 3 to 5 courses together in fall semester and 2 to 4 courses together in spring semester. STEP staff build the class schedules for the cohorts and place the students into cohorts during summer orientation. Students form study groups naturally from seeing the same familiar faces in multiple classes.

STEP Cohorts and Learning Communities

STEP early intervention

STEP flags approximately 400 first-year, returning sophomore and first-time transfer college of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) students who under-perform in critical STEM courses. STEP program staff outline an academic plan for each student during the meeting based on the students’ academic needs. The STEP director follows up with all students who had meetings to see how the plan is working, if grades are improving, and to check if students need additional help or resources. Copies of the academic early intervention plans are also placed in the students’ advising folders so CEAS academic advisors can also be aware of issues when meeting with students.

Academic support

step student success center

Tutor helping students

A STEP content tutor helps students in French Hall with free tutoring service at one of three STEP Student Success Centers.

STEP employs approximately 20 tutors in three STEP Student Success Centers (SSCs) located in two residence halls including Eldridge/Fox and French Hall. Another SSC is located at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences(CEAS) in Floyd Hall. STEP Student Success Centers serve all engineering students in need of academic help. The two residence hall locations offer night-time tutoring hours between 7 pm and 1 am. The Parkview location in Floyd Hall offers daytime tutoring that includes support for many upper level engineering and computer science courses. The STEP director, along with appointed senior STEP SSC staff, meet bi-weekly to coordinate management of the tutors and the centers. The STEP director meets with all the tutors on a monthly basis and gains valuable insight regarding which STEP tutoring services are most needed by our students so publicity and support can be coordinated based on those immediate needs.

Student Success CentERS

Non-attendance reporting

WMU encourages faculty and staff for engineering courses, math, physics, and chemistry to report students who miss two or more of their classes. The STEP program receives reports for students of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) not attending classes and attempts to contact each student to direct them to campus resources as needed, including referral to STEP Student Success Center tutoring, Sindecuse Mental Health Services, faculty office hours, academic advising, etc. STEP also partners with Residence Life to contact students who live on campus to encourage them to re-engage in classes and to provide support to help them catch up on what they may have missed.

Academic support

CEAS-exploratory program

Students who wish to study at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) and have ACT math sub-scores that place them in Algebra II are placed into the CEAS exploratory program. These students have their own cohorts, and these cohorts have STEP mentors who are CEAS academic advisors. Students are enrolled in the engineering-themed First Year Experience (FYE) seminar as the anchor course for each cohort which is led by academic advisors. This course focuses on study habits and strategies for studying engineering or applied science to help the students become successful at CEAS.

CEAS Exploratory

transfer student host

STEP employs a transfer student host to create a similar “cohort” for all incoming transfer students. The transfer student host creates programming similar to regular STEP cohorts to help transfer students meet each other, form study groups and participate in CEAS fall welcome activities. Special packets are created and given to each first-time transfer student with information about CEAS, tutoring services, academic advising and contact information for STEP staff.

Transfer students

Women and Leadership in the college of engineering and applied sciences

Engr 4950 class

Enrolled students from the fall 2015 class, Women and Leadership in Engineering and Applied Sciences.

STEP has created a one-credit-hour course, ENGR 4950, for incoming female freshmen and transfer students entitled Women and Leadership in Engineering and Applied Sciences. The seminar course is modeled after other successful women in science and engineering programs in the United States. This topics course introduces speakers, mainly female alums, of Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), who present to the class about their current job and time at WMU. They offer advice and guidance for the students using their life experience as examples, and allow time for questions at the end of each class period. Other presentations include a student panel comprised of current female CEAS students to talk about classes, internships, tutoring, and registered student organization (RSO) opportunities. Students are assigned an e-mentor who is also a female WMU CEAS graduate.

women's mentoring network

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The Women in Engineering Mentoring Network is led by Dr. Ikhlas Abdel-Qader, a STEP Co-Principal Investigator, STEP faculty mentor and professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS). The program connects female engineering students with a female mentor for face-to-face contact. This helps female students learn the skills and information needed to be successful in college and in careers in engineering and applied sciences. Mentors also help students get answers to their academic and career questions from female professionals who have similar experiences. Students and mentors also participate in a banquet to celebrate friendships and partnerships forged over the academic year.

Women in CEAS

Engineering house



Students  show off their cardboard canoe as part of CEAS-related programming.

The residence hall Eldridge/Fox or Valley III, also known as Engineering House,  serves as the engineering and applied sciences living-learning community for the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) students. Engineering House hosts special engineering specific programming for students including the cardboard canoe race, CEAS Family Feud, how to get an internship, video games, and building a trebuchet. CEAS registered student organizations also host a meet and greet at Engineering House in the fall.

STEP also provides and maintains a computer lab that contains the same computers and programs as those in the Computer Aided Engineering Center (CAE) in Floyd Hall. The largest STEP Student Success Center is also located in Engineering House.

ENGINEERING HOUSE

Fall welcome and passport day

Student in fluids lab

Incoming students tour the Fluid Dynamics Lab at CEAS during 2015 Fall Welcome.

STEP plans and facilitates a fall welcome program called Passport Day.  More than 400 incoming students are bused to the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) where they receive a “passport” that serves as a guide for touring labs and department offices and also includes presentations about time management, metacognition, and meeting the Student Success Center tutors. Students receive a stamp in their passport for every location they visit. The students with the most stamps are awarded prizes at the STEP kick-off BBQ. Select CEAS registered student organizations also provide demonstrations including viewing the canoe from the Concrete Canoe team, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics performs acrobatic shows with their student-built radio controlled airplanes. The Sunseeker, Baja, and Formula race teams are also on hand and display their student-built cars.

Fall Welcome

step kick-off bbq


STEP hosts a BBQ the first Sunday of the fall semester for all incoming freshmen and transfer students. College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) faculty and staff are encouraged to attend to meet the students in a relaxed environment. The college's Registered Student Organization (RSO) groups set up tables to meet, talk, and recruit students. The STEP BBQ is held on the main campus at the Valley Pond area across from Engineering House.

The Sophomore Experience invites College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) sophomores with a GPA of 2.5 or above to participate in a semester long program, focused on career planning and gaining internships. A STEP graduate assistant recruited from Career and Student Employment Services leads two sections of a free course that focus on three main learning objectives including: Developing and applying knowledge about yourself to career decision making, identifying and developing job-specific skills from experiential learning and effectively communicating skills and experiences to prospective employers. These objectives include resume building, cover letter guidance, interview practice and skills, job fair expectations and preparation, elevator speech, networking and professional etiquette.

SOPHOMORE EXPERIENCE

The Sophomore Experience invites College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) sophomores with a GPA of 2.5 or above to participate in a semester long program, focused on career planning and gaining internships. A STEP graduate assistant recruited from Career and Student Employment Services leads two sections of a free course that focus on three main learning objectives including: Developing and applying knowledge about yourself to career decision making, identifying and developing job-specific skills from experiential learning and effectively communicating skills and experiences to prospective employers. These objectives include resume building, cover letter guidance, interview practice and skills, job fair expectations and preparation, elevator speech, networking and professional etiquette.

Career Services