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Keywords:

  • academic pathways;
  • diversity;
  • retention

Abstract

Nearly one-half of the industrial engineering undergraduate interviewees in an investigation of their degree program indicated they previously had been enrolled in another major. Understanding why these students chose to remain in or enter a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) major when their previous choice lost its appeal is an important piece of the STEM participation puzzle. Our data indicate effective formal and informal recruiting, contact with dynamic individuals who conveyed commitment to and excitement about the department and program, and a department that welcomed immigrants and promoted a clear, relevant image of its discipline's identity, influenced student decisions to relocate within STEM rather than attrite. The high proportion of females within the immigrant students is one factor contributing to the department's attainment of sex parity. Our students' stories offer lessons to other departments for attracting and retaining students who enter the higher education STEM pipeline.