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Sacramento State receives federal funding to enhance success for Latinx and other Engineering students

A new federal grant provides $3 million, distributed over the next five years, to fund the redesign of 20 courses, purchase new technology, and more, in support of students from underrepresented communities on the path to an Engineering degree. (Sacramento State file/Jessica Vernone)

A new, $3 million federal grant will allow Sacramento State to make key investments to boost graduation rates among Engineering students, especially those from Latinx backgrounds.

"TECH4Equity will be a unique partnership between technology, advising, and tutoring staff, equity-minded faculty, and student leaders," said Professor Lynn Tashiro, the project's principal investigator. "Courses and programs will be developed from the perspective of Hispanic and low-income student needs."

The TECH4Equity grant, which will be distributed over the next five years, will fund course redesign, technology upgrades, and more to help students better understand key concepts and create a clearer path to an Engineering degree.

The grant is the fourth that Sac State has received from the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions program since 2015. The University is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, with more than 30% of its students identifying as Latinx.

Tashiro, director of Sac State’s Center for Teaching and Learning, and Praveen Meduri, an associate professor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, will oversee the TECH4Equity project.

With the new funding, the University will redesign 15 general education and five Engineering courses that are critical to earning an Engineering degree. The course redesign is meant to improve pass rates and remove equity gaps, Tashiro said. The GE courses will serve all majors including Engineering.

Changes, for example, will include replacing traditional lectures with more interactive approaches to teaching.

"TECH4Equity will use technology and artificial intelligence to create more flexible course options and academic support resources for students," Tashiro said. "The development of online and hybrid courses and tutoring services are part of this plan."

Meduri said that program leaders are “taking a look at a sequence of courses that have high fail rates for Hispanic students and asking, 'Why is this happening, and how can we fix this? How can we help students get through these classes successfully?' ”

Academic standards will not be compromised, he emphasized. “All of our students will have to meet the standards. It’s just a matter of changing some of the ways we take them down the academic path.”

The grant funding also will pay for new laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which serves students from seasonal farming backgrounds.

The improvements will help close the “digital divide” that works against students who are interested in studying Engineering but have limited access to the latest technology, Meduri said.

In addition, Engineering faculty will receive training in new, culturally sensitive online teaching tools.

A bilingual Herky chatbot, which will offer support and services to students who are CAMP members, is a long-term project in partnership with Student Affairs and IRT.

The innovations, which will benefit thousands of scholars in the coming years, will “meet students where they are,” and support them in their journeys through college, said Mariappan “Jawa” Jawaharlal, interim associate vice president for Sac State’s Offices of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development.

“We want to bring students to our campusand show them that we are not just another engineering program,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure they succeed.”




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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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