Outreach Survey Shows Big Numbers, Strong Diversity Focus

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A Panoramic View of Engineering Outreach

We have just published Engineering Outreach on Campus: Purposes and Audiences. This report is the first in a series we're planning based on our Fall 2014 survey of outreach programs at colleges and universities. After gathering survey results from over 100 engineering outreach programs across the country, we have analyzed and organized this wealth of information to provide a unique, extensive overview of the field.

How to Get a Copy

Subscribers to this blog have already received an early release of the paper. Via the sign-up box in the sidebar, new subscribers can get their own copies of the paper, as well as upcoming survey releases as soon as they are available.

The Engineering Outreach on Campus Project

"Purposes and Audiences" is the first part of the Engineering Outreach on Campus project. It looks at the reasons people cite for running outreach programs and who participates in them. We break out results by type of institution - university, four-year college, and two-year college - across all areas of analysis. Upcoming releases from the project will examine the types of events that outreach programs offer and approaches to administration, budget, and staffing.

Key Takeaways from "Purposes and Audiences"

Outreach programs operate at all kinds of institutions

 Courtesy of the USNA STEM Center

Courtesy of the USNA STEM Center

  • The survey attracted responses from 109 programs at 91 different institutions.
  • Respondents ranged from major, public research universities to regional campuses, from universities to two-year colleges, from large, research-heavy privates to smaller, teaching-focused ones.
  • Responses came from all across the country, California to Massachusetts, Minnesota to Florida.

Outreach programs serve general, field-wide purposes more than pragmatic, institution-specific ones

  • 76 percent said their program was meant to “increase awareness of engineering.”
  • 50 percent said their program was meant to “increase recruitment for the host institution.”
 NC State College of Engineering, The Engineering Place

NC State College of Engineering, The Engineering Place

Students are, far and away, the most popular audience for outreach programs

  • 90 percent named students as an intended audience
  • Administrators are a neglected group, with only 18 percent saying they addressed these key K-12 decision-makers.

Outreach programs reach a lot of people

  • 85 programs reported contact figures, with the total reaching more than 260,000 people in the last year.
  • Universities reached over 147,000 students, which extrapolates to almost 600,000, if respondents’ outreach is representative of engineering programs as a whole.
 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University

Diversity is a high outreach priority

  • Over 70 percent of programs reach under-represented groups.
  • Of these programs, 73 percent reach girls or young women.
  • Just over 50 percent of diversity programs reach African-Americans or Hispanics, about 25 percent reach Native Americans.

Future women engineers are a popular audience

  • 33 university programs reached over 42,000 girls or young women in the last year.
  • Hispanic participation totaled over 28,000, African-Americans almost 14,000, and Native Americans about 1,000.

What's Next

Upcoming releases from the survey will examine the types of events outreach programs offer and how they are administered. We asked about outreach events at all levels of intensity, from engineering demonstrations at a school assembly to multi-day, residential summer engineering camps. Analysis will give a fine-grained picture of what people mean when they talk about "outreach." In addition, we gathered information about staffing, assessment, and budgeting to gain insights into how people run outreach programs.

In the end, we expect Engineering Outreach on Campus to offer a uniquely comprehensive, wide-ranging picture of outreach as colleges and universities practice it. Get a copy now of the first part, "Purposes and Audiences," by signing up in the sidebar. You'll get each subsequent release as soon as it's available, along with updates to our blog.

We are eager to hear responses to this work. If you think we're on to something worthwhile, let us know. Perhaps even more, though, let us know if you think we're off-base somewhere. The greater goal is to extend and deepen understanding of outreach as a diverse, sophisticated field of activity unto itself, in widespread operation, with lots of smart people dedicated to making it work. For this, we can use everyone's help.


Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at eiversen@start-engineering.com