Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Degree Level



Biomedical Engineering


Elsaadany, Mostafa


Although efforts to increase the inclusion, retention, and success of first-generation college students (FGCSs) in research universities have resulted in noticeable progress, FGCSs still feel academically challenged, isolated, and show more anxiety and depression compared to non-FGCSs. Moreover, FGCSs may possess additional underrepresented identities that exacerbates the problem. There is more risk of dropping out of academic programs for FGCSs enrolling in STEM degrees, especially those of more multidisciplinary nature such as Biomedical Engineering. From the overall population of the State of Arkansas, only 23.3% have a bachelor’s degree or higher which is the third least percentage in the United States. Ensuring that STEM FGCSs at the U of A succeed academically and professionally is essential to both increasing the STEM higher education turnover and decreasing the poverty in Arkansas; since gaining a STEM degree is highly linked to social and economic mobility for first-generation college students. There is a critical need to identify effective strategies that can lead to the academic success of FGCSs in multidisciplinary STEM fields. In the absence of such strategies, FGCSs will continue to struggle academically and show a continued less representation in the critically important STEM fields.

The goal of this study is to identify effective strategies that lead to the inclusion and success of FGCSs in multidisciplinary STEM fields. Our hypothesis is that various styles of mentorship and coaching will provide academic, and professional guidance for FGCSs that leads to an enhanced sense of inclusivity and, ultimately, their retention and success in the STEM field. We identify the effect of assigning a faculty mentor combined with an academic coach, or a peer mentor combined with an academic coach on the success of FGCSs attending two core classes in the Biomedical Engineering department at U of A. The two selected classes (Sophomore level: Biomechanical Engineering and Junior level: Biomolecular Engineering) are traditionally defined as challenging classes. Data was collected from the FGCS by surveys and by monitoring their academic performance in-class assignments. Factors like race, work, involvement in professional opportunities, class standing, and goals after graduating were considered while analyzing the data.

The results of this study showed that both faculty mentoring combined with academic coaching and peer mentoring combined with academic coaching have increased the confidence of Biomedical Engineering FGCSs significantly. FGCSs belongingness was not significantly changed after the mentoring program. Disseminating the study outcomes will provide guidelines to the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas as well as the public. The effective strategies defined in the current work will be implemented towards maximizing the chances of first-generation college students’ success.


Multidisciplinary STEM Fields, First-Generation College Students, Faculty Mentoring, Peer Mentoring, Biomedical Engineering Education