• retention;
  • gender;
  • underrepresented minorities


In spite of considerable research about the poor retention rate of undergraduate engineering students, we still have an inadequate understanding of the factors that affect students' decisions to remain in engineering programs and their ability to perform well enough to be retained. Although continued study is needed of external factors such as curricular requirements, admissions criteria, and test scores, we also need to know much more about the relationships between curricular experiences and students' learning styles, habits, and attitudes. The work presented in this paper was designed to enhance educators' understanding of the factors that underlie the concern about student retention in engineering. By observing 1,000 engineering students during their first three years in college, the research team generated a large database on the students' academic and non-academic characteristics as well as their successes and failures. The traits discovered not only support many findings from previous studies but also reveal some new relationships that could prove essential to designing an educational environment that will prepare engineers for success in the future.