October 2022


Featured Article

Kenneth A. Connor

Barry J. Sullivan


IEC 2to4 Program: Facilitated Transition from 2 Year to 4 Year Engineering Studies

By: Kenneth A. Connor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Inclusive Engineering Consortium and
Barry J. Sullivan, Inclusive Engineering Consortium

Co-PIs: Bruk Berhane, Florida International University
Mohamed Chouikha, Prairie View A&M University,
Milford Muskett, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
Miguel Velez-Reyes, University of Texas El Paso


The Inclusive Engineering Consortium was recently awarded a $10.9M grant over six years by the U.S. Department of Defense to support IEC's 2to4 program focused on first-generation, underrepresented community college students in their transition to completing four-year ECE degrees.

The Inclusive Engineering Consortium (IEC) is a non-profit organization that has at its core Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) programs at fifteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), three Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and two Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). The IEC's 2to4 Program will build and support a consortium of community colleges with the goal of at least doubling the number of community college (CC) students transferring into its 4-year partner institutions or other 4-year schools, based on what is best for each student. The 2-year to 4-year pathway through 4-year engineering programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) is under developed and under utilized at present.

Blue mortarboards show MSI members, Red mortarboards show PWI members, Black stars show industrial members. See iec.org for more information on all members.

Each of the 19 IEC 4-year MSI programs has existing relationships with local community colleges to support transitions from 2-year to 4-year engineering studies. The lone IEC community college - the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute - has similar relationships based on verbal agreements with 4-year schools in New Mexico. However, the number of community college students from the communities served well by the 19 core IEC member institutions remains relatively small. They are among the largest overall producers of minority engineers, and they can do the same for students who start their studies at 2-year schools.

With these MSI ECE programs as hubs, the IEC will greatly expand its membership to include key community colleges located near these hubs and provide the backbone organization for a nationwide network of community colleges uniquely able to support the DoD vision of a diverse and sustainable talent pool in electrical and computer engineering.

In addition to the 20 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), IEC has growing numbers of affiliate members, presently 12 strong Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) and industial members (presently 7). IEC is working to build equitable partnerships that engage multiple MSI, PWI and industry members to address common interests in education, research and service. It is developing a virtual super department model that includes over 5000 students and 200 faculty at its MSI members alone. A major focus of this effort is the pathway from K-12 and community colleges to successful completion of BS degrees in ECE with a particular emphasis on the transition to a four-year program of study whether from high schools or community colleges. The Smart Cities REU/RET (SCR2) mega site, led by Morgan State and involving students and faculty from all IEC MSI members, includes community college teachers and students, with a special focus on students with a GPA above 2.5 to make sure that no hidden gems miss the opportunity to prepare for graduate studies and careers in research. The Inclusive Engineering Foundation (IEF) has launched a new Pathways to Success program to increase opportunities for IEC MSI undergraduates to prepare for and find internships with IEC industry partners. Pathways will guide students, particularly those who are first in their family to attend college, throughout their college career by providing academic mentorships and a variety of educational workshops.

IEC member organizations, whether MSIs, PWIs or from industry, will work together to share best practices to create and sustain the infrastructure necessary to guide community college students on the pathway to ECE careers. Students will be provided with the information they need to fully understand the educational options they have at both MSIs and PWIs and continuing personal support and scholarships after they move to their new college or university. The community colleges presently sending students to nearby IEC MSI members will form the initial hubs with the goal of expanding participation by both increasing the numbers of students pursuing ECE degrees at their local school and all other IEC 4-year member institutions. In addition, the present limited national pathways to IEC programs will be leveraged to include students from all over the US.

The IEC 2to4 Program Approach

The IEC 2to4 Program will build the scaffolding necessary while providing the financial and educational support to smooth the transfer from 2-year to 4-year engineering programs, producing more graduates who are better prepared for entry level positions in industry and the DoD laboratory enterprise.

The IEC 2to4 program will achieve the following goals by engaging IEC core/sustaining (MSI) members, affilliate (PWI) members, corporate members and the DoD laboratory enterprise (Employers) in equitable partnerships to:

  • Double the enrollment of community college students in IEC MSI member degree programs, producing more and better prepared CC students transferring to 4-year programs to pursue a BS engineering degree, and ultimately, obtain a good position in industry or in the DoD laboratory enterprise, admission to a graduate program, etc.
  • Prepare community college students for the transfer to a 4-year program and provide them with guidance throughout their studies
  • Provide financial support through internships, scholarships and stipends, while students are at the 4-year institution

The IEC serves as an independent backbone organization that facilitiates the development and implementation of scaffolding to smooth the 2to4 transition for students pursuing engineering degrees. It will enable all of its member organizations, most notably those in the new category of community college engineering programs, to work together as a virtual super department that collaboratively achieves its goals through collective impact based on equitable partnerships.

The long-term goal is a sustainable program that engages at least double the number of CC students in ECE programs at IEC MSI member institutions.

About the IEC

The Inclusive Engineering Consortium is a non-profit organization that has at its core historically minority serving institutions working as one to advance the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Enterprise. The IEC grew out of the HBCU Experiment Centric Pedagogy (ECP) project, a network of ECE collaborators from 13 institutions who gave hands-on experimentation a central role in all ECE courses that involved circuits or electronics.

The IEC shares many of the same goals as its sister organization, ECEDHA, in advancing the field of ECE with added emphasis on producing a larger and better prepared pool of African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and women ECE graduates. It exists today, in part, because of the professional networks and connections its founders, who presently serve on its Board of Directors, were able to develop through very active engagement in ECEDHA. It will continue to grow as more ECEDHA members see the value in building equitable partnerships with IEC and its MSI member programs.

For more information about the Inclusive Engineering Consortium, visit www.iec.org