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  February 24, 2003

Anonymous Donation To Help Retain Undergraduate Engineers
By Nan Cooper

An anonymous donation of $500,000 from an engineering alumnus will be used by the School of Engineering to launch a new Engineering Learning Mentorship Program and to augment undergraduate scholarships in engineering.

The donation to the endowment, made through Campaign UConn, will be matched by the state for a total of $750,000.

"This generous gift is a seed that will yield incalculable long-term harvests for the School of Engineering, as we seek to both attract and retain a greater number of undergraduate students," said Amir Faghri, dean of engineering. "Not only can we acquaint more prospective students with the engineering disciplines, we can create a nurturing environment and provide scholarship incentives that will foster higher retention rates."

The Learning Mentorship Program, which will receive $300,000 under terms of the gift, is designed to combat attrition among undergraduate engineering students at UConn.

The program will be headed by Marcelle Wood, assistant dean for undergraduate education, and will comprise a corps of senior engineering students who will provide academic mentoring in basic coursework to targeted freshmen and sophomores. The program will also involve peer advisors and graduate students who will help guide participating students in sequencing their coursework, scheduling, developing good study skills, and managing their time.

The goals of the Learning Mentorship Program are to increase the retention rate and academic success of undergraduate engineering students; increase the number of engineering graduates from traditionally under-represented populations, including women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans; and provide academic peer advising to all undergraduate students.

The problem of attrition is common in engineering programs across the country and is particularly high among members of underrepresented populations, including women and minorities. During the 1990s, approximately half of all engineering freshmen in collegiate programs nationwide did not continue their engineering education through the second year.

In the UConn School of Engineering, the attrition rate for students between their freshman and sophomore years is significantly lower, at 20 percent, but continued attrition from the sophomore through the senior year yields an ultimate graduation rate of 55 percent.

A sum of $200,000 will support undergraduate engineering scholarships for students enrolled in the Engineering BRIDGE program, a five-week, intensive residential summer readiness program for members of traditionally underrepresented populations. The participants receive daily instruction in four core subjects: chemistry, computer programming, calculus, and physics, and may also take advantage of workshops, structured group study sessions, group visits to engineering companies, and industry tours.

Admission is limited to qualified students who have applied to or are admitted into the UConn School of Engineering. Last summer, the BRIDGE program enrolled 40 students.

After successfully completing the summer readiness program, each participant may receive a renewable scholarship of up to $3,000 per year.

The endowment gift will allow the School to expand the number of students who take part in the BRIDGE program, and increase the number and dollar value of scholarship opportunities available to BRIDGE students who have completed the program.

The remaining $250,000 of the endowment will support additional scholarships in engineering for undergraduate students not affiliated with the BRIDGE program.

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