Using Historic Scientific and Technological Innovators to Foster Enrollment in College

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Edward Lane, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
This study is on the impact (and potential benefits) of exposing students to examples of historical scientific and technological innovators specific to their home region, with the purpose of determining if this exposure, when coupled with other motivational efforts, can increase enrollment in public universities from underrepresented regions of North Carolina. North Carolina has a long history of significant contributions to science and technology, but this history is often overlooked in the education of students. By introducing students to examples of historical scientific and technological innovators (“near-peers”) specific to the location of the students, I hope to produce additional motivation for students in underrepresented areas of North Carolina to attend our public universities. Information on examples of historical innovation icons was integrated into the University of North Carolina First Look program. The UNC First Look program has the objective of introducing middle school students to university life, in the hopes of motivating them, and presenting the possibility of college education to students that may not have otherwise considered higher education. By combining this program with information about “near-peers”, localized to specific school’s cities and counties, I intend to provide additional impetus for students to attend a university, and for entering into STEM fields of study (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The information collected from this semester’s First Look program shows encouraging results. Students exposed to historical innovation icons from their communities were more engaged, more responsive, and retained a greater amount of information from the day’s presentations. These examples also facilitated the First Look practice of introducing students to specific programs of study, and the concepts of majors, which have previously proven difficulty for some students to comprehend. These results suggest that by introducing students to examples of important innovators in science and technology from their region, it may be possible to motivate a greater number of students from under-served regions of the state to attend universities. This preliminary research will be continued in the spring semester First Look program, with additional efforts to quantify the results of the integration of historical science and technology innovators into the program.