CAREER: Better Together: Leveraging the Shared Commitment of Community Colleges and HBCUs to Optimize Black Engineering Student Pathways Grant

CAREER: Better Together: Leveraging the Shared Commitment of Community Colleges and HBCUs to Optimize Black Engineering Student Pathways .


  • While much of the emphasis on broadening participation in engineering has focused on students who attend PWI and mostly four-year institutions, Black engineering undergraduate enrollment and graduation rates have declined in recent years. At the same time, community colleges (CCs) as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have consistently graduated Black engineers at comparatively much higher rates. In addition, in previous studies, Black engineering undergraduates who initially enroll in CCs have reported positive experiences when transferring to HBCUs. This suggests that CC-to-HBCU pathways may be an overlooked opportunity for graduating more Black engineers. Building on this evidence, this CAREER project will assemble stakeholders from CCs and HBCUs to collaboratively develop a shared vision for maximizing the potential of these pathways. This project will: 1) Collect baseline data on the current state of trends, challenges, and opportunities in the CC-HBCU engineering infrastructure; 2) Document the steps that CCs and HBCUs undertake to move toward this shared vision; 3) Explore evolving processes as CCs and HBCUs develop and execute strategies to optimize these pathways. This project will result in a novel framework to help HBCUs, other minority-serving institutions, and PWIs partner with CCs to find innovative solutions for broadening participation in engineering. From an education perspective, the study will also produce modules developed from the framework that offer guidance on how four-year HBCUs and other four-year schools can better partner with CCs to improve Black engineering student pathways. In addition, the project will position faculty, staff, and administrators as leaders in improving these pathways by guiding them through workshops focused on collective impact and institutional change.

    Despite the advancement in understanding the CC to four-year engineering college pathway for students, few scholars have explored the potential of CCs and four-year HBCUs to work together to maximize Black engineering student persistence, transfer, and graduation rates. This CAREER project addresses this gap by centering CCs and HBCUs as leaders in educating future Black engineers, and will leverage the collective strengths that each type of institution individually brings to broadening participation efforts. Participants will include faculty, staff, and/or administrators representing the 15 engineering degree-granting HBCUs, as well as their feeder CCs. Using an action research approach that is grounded in collective impact and Kezar’s theoretical frameworks on institutional change, my research objectives will involve the collection and analysis of: 1) Descriptive statistics that establish the current state of CC to HBCU engineering pathways, including trends, challenges, and opportunities in this space; 2) Focus group and observational data that document how participants collaborate to articulate and refine a shared vision for maximizing the potential of these pathways; 3) Focus group and observational data that document CC-HBCU collaborative efforts during interventions at select sites during this project. The educational objectives of this project are to: 1) Inform participants of promising practices drawn from other studies that focus on engineering CCs, transfer, and retention; 2) Introduce collective impact to faculty, staff, and administrators as a tool for maximizing collaborations in the CC-HBCU context; and 3) Develop an organizational framework that other engineering institutions, including other minority-serving institutions and predominately White institutions, can use in collaboration with CCs to increase Black engineering student enrollment and graduation. The long-term goal will be to test the capacity of this framework in future studies to increase the number of Black and other underrepresented students who first enroll in CCs.

    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

  • March 1, 2022 - February 28, 2027

sponsor award ID

  • 2145961