College of Engineering's GradTrack named CoNECD 2023 Program of the Year
GradTrack was awarded the Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) Program of the Year at the 2023 National CoNECD Conference on Feb. 28 in New Orleans.
GradTrack is an online mentoring program developed by the Purdue Engineering Office of Graduate Education. It builds a graduate school focused community and mentoring network of both undergraduate and graduate underrepresented minority (URM) engineers.
The CoNECD award honors programs that positively impact the involvement of URM students in engineering and computing. The Program of the Year award recipient is chosen based on the program’s impact, participant satisfaction, and evidence of using evaluation data to improve the program.
GradTrack, established in 2021, completed its second year in fall 2022. The program aims to disrupt the cycle of engineering graduates, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, not pursuing advanced degrees. GradTrack scholars emerge with an increased understanding of current graduate students’ experiences, as well as with a completed application to graduate school or a summer research opportunity.
Through the use of mentoring circles, five to seven undergraduate students are paired with two current Purdue Engineering graduate students. This approach fosters confidence and allows students to feel comfortable as they dive deeper into relevant topics through small group discussions.
Between the first and second years of the program, there was a 139 percent increase in mentor applications and an 82 percent increase in undergraduate student mentee applications. The second year of the program included 73 undergraduate student mentees and 26 graduate student mentors. The highly collaborative GradTrack program brings together undergraduate students from 30 universities in the United States and Puerto Rico, including Purdue.
Selected graduate student mentors receive training at the start of the program and gain a structured mentoring experience to assist in their professional career development.
Graduate student mentors share their journeys and expose undergraduate students to the life of a graduate student. In this way, the GradTrack program builds a larger community of URM engineers interested in academia and graduate education. All activities and discussions are focused on demystifying graduate school as a whole.
“Long term, we hope that many of the participants who successfully matriculate to graduate school will return as mentors/speakers for future GradTrack programs,” said Janet Beagle, senior director of graduate programs for Purdue Engineering.
After two successful years, Purdue plans to focus on sustaining and scaling the program for an even larger impact. Other universities also have expressed interested in the GradTrack program structure, which will be shared through best practices and lessons learned. A paper assessing the effectiveness of the program has been submitted for the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2023 conference.
Faculty members interested in being a GradTrack guest speaker or faculty mentor for a URM summer undergraduate researcher may contact Jackie McDermott, associate director of graduate diversity and inclusion for Purdue Engineering. Graduate and undergraduate students interested in the 2023-2024 program should send a message to email@example.com.
February 28, 2023