The ExxonMobil Gator Alumni STEPUP Fund
The Successful Transition and Enhanced Preparation for Undergraduates Program (STEPUP) approaches the concept of student preparation from a holistic perspective.
It consists of two major components:
Conducted during the summer of their freshman year, the residential component addresses the majority of potential issues and challenges that can negatively impact first-year minority students. The rigorous six week, 14 hour per day program involves supplemental instruction in chemistry and calculus, personal and professional development, and a course in problem solving and design requiring use of AutoCAD and MATLAB. Participants live together, work together, and share meals together.
Conducted during the student’s first fall and spring terms, the non-residential component involves strong peer, faculty, and professional mentoring. Students are required to attend study hall sessions and Student Success Workshops on topics ranging from time management and resume development to test-taking skills. Group meetings with their mentors are regularly scheduled. Students also participate in the campus career fair to identify summer internship opportunities after their first year.
“Participating in STEPUP allowed me to have opportunities that not many incoming freshman students would have. I networked with upperclassmen engineers who guided me in the right direction and interacted with renowned faculty that many freshman would not have the opportunity to meet until their later years. STEPUP is a family that motivates you and wants you to succeed in everything.”—Kimberly Gant, Industrial & Systems STEPUP Student
Why diversity in engineering?
- Key challenges in engineering involve retention of engineering students. The average national retention of students who begin their major as engineers is 60%, with females and minorities experiencing an even lower retention rate.
- The U.S. is rapidly approaching a population shift in which today’s minority will become the majority by 2042. STEPUP is specifically addressing the concerns that have arisen within the engineering industry over the lack of diversity in its workforce.
- STEPUP is nearing completion of its 21st year of existence (20th year with a residential component). It serves as a direct response to the call for increased diversity among engineering disciplines.
How does STEPUP promote success?
- The high attrition rate of engineering students in the first two years of college can be linked to their large critical tracking courses, including chemistry, physics, and calculus. However, introducing engineering early in the curriculum provides STEPUP students with an instant support community. They are able to adopt an identity of “engineer” early on, creating a positive impact and leading to lower attrition in these sensitive years.
“The program offered me the experience to go on manufacturing plant tours where I had the opportunity to meet professional engineers who were more than willing to provide helpful insight, gain awareness of what an engineering student needs to be successful, and most importantly gained self-management skills. That being said, without the program I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”—Jairo Gonzalez, Industrial & Systems STEPUP Student
What do the results show?
- UF students participating in STEPUP over the past 20 years have had an average retention rate of 83%.
- All UF Engineering students not participating in STEPUP have experienced a retention rate of 75%.
- Female UF Engineering students not participating in STEPUP have a retention rate of 71%.
- Many STEPUP students are from backgrounds that historically have experienced a greater risk for failure in the university setting. However, the high first-year retention rates of STEPUP students compared to their cohorts is a clear indication of the success of the program.
How can YOU help?
- The STEPUP Program has grown tremendously in its 20+ years and seeks to accelerate that growth. To do so, the program has a goal of increasing its current student enrollment in the program from 30 to 60 within the next few years.
- Increasing the ability to enroll more students into STEPUP is the primary goal! The more students we are able to involve and grow, the better served our engineering community will be.
Your STEPUP involvement might include:
- Sponsoring STEPUP students with a financial commitment
- Mentoring students 1:1 on research design projects
- Study abroad programs with corporate involvement
- Summer internships at industry locations
- On-campus lecture and mentor opportunities
These represent tangible and satisfying opportunities for YOU to engage with these aspiring engineers!