Documenting Experiences and Resources Supporting the Community College Transfer, Persistence, and Graduation of Black Engineering Students Grant

Documenting Experiences and Resources Supporting the Community College Transfer, Persistence, and Graduation of Black Engineering Students .


  • While scholars have often focused on the role of K-12 schools and four-year colleges and universities in the production of future Black engineers, far less is known about the impact of community colleges in regard to their ability to support this underrepresented population. Understanding the role of community colleges is particularly important, given the large numbers of Black students that enroll in these schools prior to transitioning to four-year engineering programs. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that a substantial number of Black engineering students who start their postsecondary careers at community colleges may in fact be first-generation Americans from sub-Saharan African countries. This study will illuminate factors that are cited by diverse Black engineering prospective and current transfer students from Maryland community colleges as critical to their ability to persist in their majors. The research team will lead a three-year study of cohorts of Black American and Black African undergraduates who plan to or have already transferred from a Maryland community college to the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Over the duration of the project, the team will not only query the study participants about what has led to their ability to continue in their majors, but will also reveal differences between the academic paths of students born and educated in the U.S., compared to those who were educated in another country. In the context of the recent announcement of the Building Together campaign, which afforded the University of Maryland the largest gift in the history of the campus and which includes specific support for engineering transfer students, this project is especially relevant for the Clark School and community colleges in the state. Furthermore, the project leverages the already strong history that the state of Maryland has with regard to developing support programs and policies for prospective transfer students. Through this study, the University and state of Maryland will be poised to become national leaders in identifying factors that lead to the production of diverse engineering transfer students. This research study builds upon the growing number of studies in engineering education and higher education literature that highlight the centrality of the community college experience to STEM students. The project also leverages recent works in education and social science scholarship that reveal the importance of documenting within-group differences among students broadly classified as Black or African American. Collectively, these works reveal noteworthy differences in the K-12 and college/university experiences of students who represent various areas of the African diaspora. Foregrounded by these studies, the research team in this project will examine factors cited by diverse Black collegians as crucial to their success before, during, and after transfer from a Maryland two-year college to the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. The team will employ a longitudinal design that will enable them to study three cohorts of students at multiple points along the engineering pipeline. Using primarily qualitative methods that include focus groups and interviews, researchers will analyze transcripts using systematic and inductive coding methods to identify prominent themes that consistently appear throughout the study. In order to explicate the academic experiences of two distinct Black populations - Blacks born and educated in the U.S. and Blacks born and educated in sub-Saharan African contexts - the team will develop separate interview and focus group protocols that reflect potential areas of convergence and divergence between the two populations. Broad dissemination of project results will be accomplished through a website, brochure, and one or more webinars, as well as engagement with key stakeholders representing diverse regions of the country.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • October 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022

sponsor award ID

  • 2024081