Innovative immersion approach to retention of African-American 1st year chemical engineers
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Students that identify as Black1, chemical engineers, and 1st-year undergraduates face unique circumstances along with perspectives that have not been assessed in depth. This pilot study aims to highlight the challenges facing 1st-year African-American students, within the bounds of their experiences during their introductory chemical engineering course and overall interactions within a Chemical Engineering Department at a Predominately White Institution (PWI). The emphasis on 1st-year students is that this group faces the largest retraction of enrollment across disciplines and the students studied possess intersecting identities noted to foster an "at-risk" retention history. Chemical engineering is a specialized major in itself and faces unique retention challenges; studies specific to retention in chemical engineering separate from engineering as a whole are limited. African American engineering retention characteristics and phenomena are an emerging field; insight specific to chemical engineering 1st-year students are not heavily reflected in the literature. The literature and my own findings show cultural2 barriers that hinder African-American students from perceiving the department as a nurturing and inclusive environment. This pilot study looks to bridge the institutional divides to gain an understanding of a population overlooked, as an effort to build a base for future work specifically examining and addressing Black students' experiences in chemical engineering.
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