STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

“On Route to a Community of Practice in Undergraduate Engineering Education” The Academic Community for Engineering Students (ACES)

Two-year/four-year partnerships can face challenges that provide valuable learning lessons for all involved parties at both institutions.

“On Route to a Community of Practice in Undergraduate Engineering Education” The Academic Community for Engineering Students (ACES)

The Academic Community for Engineering Students (ACES) is a joint partnership between the University of Virginia, School of Engineering and Applied Science’s (UVA-SEAS) and Thomas Nelson Community College’s Division of Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (TNCC-MET). Together, UVA-SEAS and TNCC have set out to increase the following by 2.0% each year: SEAS year-one-to-year-two retention rate, SEAS 5-year cohort graduation rate, TNCC’s three-year graduation rate, and TNCC’s cohort transfer rate, defined as the number of students that transfer to a four-year school to pursue engineering degrees.

UVA-SEAS and TNCC have implemented a combination of proven and innovative community-building practices to accomplish the overarching goal of increasing the number of students, especially those from underrepresented populations that earn engineering baccalaureate degrees. Since this grant’s inception, TNCC and UVA-SEAS have worked together to overcome challenges often faced by two-year/four-year partnerships, learning valuable lessons through this process. As a result, a number of excellent practices can be gleaned from this partnership. For example, changes to the first year UVA-SEAS curriculum have led to an average 91.5% year-one-to-year-two retention rate and an exceptional 5-year graduation rate, which are both remarkably high when compared to the national average. Moreover, an annual community college day has been implemented for TNCC students and more recently expanded to include a local community college. This day is designed to expose potential transfer students to the laboratory facilities at UVA, while also incorporating information about the transfer process and interactions with current SEAS students (traditional and transfer). Specifically, community college day has increased the number of applicants for transfer admissions from TNCC. Thus, the ACES partnership is effectively impacting the number of students that enroll, pursue, and achieve engineering baccalaureate degrees.

Lead Author

  • Carolyn Vallas

Institution Information

  • Name: University of Virginia
  • State: VA

Poster Information

  • ID: TF-019
  • Disciplinary Focus: All STEM
  • Award Number: 0653199
  • Project Year 5+