Creating Opportunities for High-Achieving Students

Najafi, Atchison, Rosen
Najafi, Atchsion, Rosen

Three Drexel Engineering professors have been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a project to increase STEM degree completion among low-income, high-achieving students.

Ahmad Najafi, PhD, PC Chou Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics; Jennifer Atchison, PhD, assistant teaching professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics; and Gail Rosen, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering are collaborators on the project, titled “Awards to Increase Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Diversity (AIME). The funding will provide financial support for four years of undergraduate education for 23 MEM and ECE students.

To address the barriers to inclusivity that have historically limited diversity in engineering programs, the project also outlines a network of resources designed to foster intellectual growth and social belonging in students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The AIME program will partner with local STEM education stakeholders to recruit and retain talented, under-resourced students (Black, Indigenous, and people of color and female populations) in the Philadelphia area to pursue Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Bachelor’s degrees at Drexel University,” the projects description states. “By offering both financial (through scholarships) and academic (through mentorship, tutoring and undergraduate research opportunities) resources, AIME aims to assist students in scaffolding unique paths to success that will lead to impactful careers in engineering.”

In implementing both financial support and services aimed at enhancing the experience of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering, the project is poised to evaluate the effectiveness of such a framework in initiating transformation toward a more inclusive STEM ecosystem.

The PIs aim to introduce a program called the Thrive Mosaic Scholar Development Framework “to increase the likelihood of equitable educational experiences for our AIME Scholars.” They describe this framework as “a conceptual toolkit for equitable STEM identity and leadership development that centers the student’s development of social capital, community and cultural wealth, and academic capital within an ecosystem of partners (associates, advocates, mentors, coaches, connectors, targeting trainers) who will provide specific support throughout the undergraduate experience pioneered by Dr. Robbin Chapman of the Harvard Kennedy School.”

As a joint MEM-ECE effort, this project also reflects the importance of collaboration in advancing STEM fields towards greater inclusivity.

“ECE/MEM enjoy synergy in programs, curriculum and partnership in senior design,” said Jonathan Spanier, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. “This opportunity exemplifies the strong partnerships essential to achieving the College of Engineering mission.”