Broadening Participation in Electrical and Computer Engineering (BP-ECE) Plan

Effective Dates:  Dec. 2020 through Dec. 2025
Major Revision of Plan Begins:  June 1, 2025
Contact:  Jean Mohammadi-Aragh, jean@ece.msstate.edu, 662-325-2042


BP-ECE Context

Founded in 1878, Mississippi State University (MSU) is a land-grant institution known as The People’s University. MSU has a strong connection to the local community. The mission of the MSU Bagley College of Engineering (BCOE) focuses on achieving excellence in engineering education, research, and outreach while ensuring graduates have both the knowledge, skills, and creativity requisite for success in the engineering workforce, and an understanding of the responsibilities that engineers bear to society and the environment in which we live. Within the MSU BCOE, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE@MSU) is the second largest department (700+ students).

Enrollment and graduation data below suggest a strong commitment to educating a diverse set of underrepresented minority students. For example, in Table 1 bold numbers highlight that ECE@MSU percent of total enrollment for some minority groups is at or higher than equivalent BCOE enrollment. However, the data also highlight areas that can be improved. For example, past data suggest that ECE African American enrollment could be higher. Moreover, ECE@MSU Women enrollment has failed to keep pace with BCOE women enrollment gains. Table 2 shows that ECE@MSU retention and graduation rates are low for all ECE@MSU students. Table 3 indicates that degrees are awarded to women at rates consistent with enrollment, but rates for degrees awarded to African American students are lower than enrollment rates.

  Table 1. ECE@MSU Academic Year Enrollment (and as % of Total Enrollment)
2010 2014 2019
African American 84 (17%) 325 (11%) 3,893 (20%) 101 (18%) 398 (11%) 3,871 (19%) 99 (14%) 529 (11%) 3,725 (17%)
Hispanic 7 (1%) 55 (2%) 334 (2%) 20 (4%) 117 (3%) 457 (2%) 21 (3%) 165 (3%) 700 (3%)
Women 60 (12%) 527 (18%) 9,487 (48%) 57 (10%) 731 (19%) 9,786 (49%) 88 (12%) 1,115 (23%) 11,093 (50%)
Total Enrolled 499 2,983 19,644 563 3,780 20,138 715 4,900 22,226
Bold = ECE@MSU academic year enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment is at or higher than for BCOE


Table 2. ECE@MSU Retention and Graduation Rates (ECE degrees)
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Freshmen Retained 47% 33% 51% 23% 46% 32% 67% 27% 57% 41% 61% 66%
Freshmen Graduated 42% 29% 49% 19% 17%1 13%1  —  —  —  —  —  —
Transfers Retained 48% 21% 61% 28% 52% 56% 69% 33% 72% 53% 72% 50%
Transfers Graduated 48% 21% 55% 22% 45% 39% 33% 17% 6%2 2  —  —
Bold = retention >50%; 1Four-year grad. rate; 2Two-year grad. rate (CpE requires >2.5 years post-transfer)


Table 3. ECE@MSU Degrees Awarded (and as % of Total Degrees Awarded)
2010-2011 2014-2015 2019-2020
African American 7 (12%) 25 (7%) 432 (16%) 7 (12%) 41 (9%) 527 (16%) 10 (11%) 62 (8%) 673 (16%)
Hispanic 0 (0%) 1 (0.3%) 29 (1%) 2 (4%) 8 (2%) 54 (2%) 1 (1%) 7 (1%) 29 (1%)
Women 5 (9%) 58 (17%) 1,386 (50%) 7 (12%) 75 (16%) 1,561 (49%) 12 (13%) 179 (24%) 2,167 (53%)
Total Degrees 57 334 2,759 57 472 3,211 91 754 4,113



The data suggests a strong commitment from ECE@MSU and the BCOE; however, ECE@MSU can further strengthen its commitment by increasing the participation of the minority groups in the Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Engineering (CpE) degree programs with the following five-year goals:

  • Broaden participation through increased undergraduate enrollment: (a) Increase enrollment for undergraduate African American and Hispanic students to reach racial parity with MSU (increase from 13.8% to 16.8% African American enrollment; increase from 2.9% to 3.1% Hispanic enrollment); and (b) Increase enrollment for undergraduate women by 20% to move towards gender parity with BCOE (increase from 12.3% to 15% women enrollment).
  • Broaden participation through increased retention and graduation: (a) Increase first-time freshmen retention rates for both EE and CPE to 80%; and (b) Increase graduation rates for first-time freshmen and transfer students to 50% and 65%, respectively.
  • Recruit and hire faculty to reflect the diversity that we want in our student population: (a) Increase the number of diverse applicants who apply to ECE@MSU faculty openings by 50%; and (b) 100% of new faculty hires must demonstrate commitment to broadening participation in ECE.


Strategies to Achieve Goals

  1. Strengthen ECE@MSU Departmental Mindset for BP-ECE: Demonstrate commitment to BP-ECE by shifting the view of BP from peripheral activities to central, mission-critical activities. Expected outcomes: (a) an increase in ECE@MSU BP-ECE activities resulting in more diverse enrollment and higher retention/graduation rates for diverse students; and (b) a more inclusive environment that attracts diverse students/faculty/staff. Specific activities for this strategy include:
  • Review, update, and, as needed, develop department policies
  • Identify opportunities to highlight BP-ECE activities in existing annual review documentation
  • Request statement from applicants during hiring processes that outlines past BP activities and future (anticipated) contributions to BP-ECE
  • Advertise open positions through SWE, NSBE, and SHPE
  • Identify ways to support diverse hires (e.g., spousal hire opportunities)
  • Mentor faculty, staff, and student minority group members to prepare them for departmental, college, and engineering team leadership roles
  • Invite speakers to faculty, staff, and student meetings to discuss implicit bias and stereotypes
  • Partner with MSU Chapters of SWE, NSBE, and SHPE to coach teaching assistants to address specific BP-ECE classroom concerns (e.g., biases that occur during group projects)
  1. Create Opportunities for Broad Participation for existing ECE students: Increase participation in academic activities for student members of minority groups. Expected outcomes: stronger engineering identity, sense of belonging within the department, perceptions of a supportive department, which are all factors positively correlated with retention. Specific activities for this strategy include:
  • Partner with MSU Chapters of SWE, NSBE, and SHPE to recruit and mentor minority group members for positions in undergraduate research and competition teams (e.g., EcoCar)
  • Leverage the BCOE Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education (IMAGE) program to grow opportunities for peer interaction and mentoring for women, African Americans, and Hispanics
  • Involve current women, African American, and Hispanic students in outreach activities
  1. Grow Outreach and Recruiting Efforts: Expand the definition of what it means to be an electrical or computer engineering by highlight faculty, staff, and student ECE success and societal impact, which is related to improved recruitment and retention efforts. Specific activities for this strategy include:
  • Promote the broad impact of research projects on the ECE@MSU website and social media
  • Promote students’ academic, research, and service successes through social media and press releases to both the MSU Reflector and students’ hometown newspapers
  • Provide a staff member specifically focused on outreach to elementary and middle school students
  • Partner with the MSU Extension Office to grow ECE@MSU outreach and recruitment opportunities to every county in the State of Mississippi
  • Strategically target recruitment from Mississippi Community Colleges by leveraging “engineering declared” designation and the Mississippi Virtual Community College Course Exchange


Assessment and Evaluation of Strategies to Achieve Goals

For each strategy, we assess how well we implement activities consistent with the strategy and we evaluate the effectiveness of each strategy for improving datapoints related to our three goals. Example assessment data includes number of policies reviewed/developed, number of faculty/staff BP-ECE activities, number of faculty/staff/students in departmental leadership roles; counts of undergraduate women, African American, and Hispanic research assistants; number of press releases and counts of social media interaction (likes); and number of participants for outreach activities. To evaluate effectiveness, ECE@MSU will deploy surveys to measure changes in engineering identity, perceptions of the department (“chilly” versus supportive), sense of belonging, and awareness of ECE societal impact. Additionally, we will ask new students about past participation in ECE@MSU outreach activities, awareness of promotional material, etc. Further, along with collecting enrollment, retention, and graduation data, ECE@MSU will track participation in undergraduate research, co-op experiences, student competition teams, and leadership roles. Finally, we will ask affinity groups including SWE, NSBE, and SHPE to provide periodic evaluation of and recommendations for improving the perceived Departmental Mindset and increasing opportunities to participate in ECE@MSU.