Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering Programs

Authors

  • Matthew W. Ohland,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Engineering Education Purdue University
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    • Matthew W. Ohland is associate professor and director of the First-Year Engineering Program in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with a minor in Education from the University of Florida and degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and in Engineering and Religion from Swarthmore College. He was previously associate professor of General Engineering at Clemson University. As a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, he was the assistant director of the Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education. He is past president of Tau Beta Pi and has been recognized with multiple conference best paper awards and teaching awards from both Clemson and Purdue.

  • Sheri D. Sheppard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mechanical Engineering Stanford University
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    • Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P. E., is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, a consulting senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT), and a senior research fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She is first author on the soon-to-be-published CFAT report Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field, and is co-principal investigator of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Within CAEE, she leads the Academic Pathways Study. Before coming to Stanford University, she held several positions in the automotive industry, including senior research engineer at Ford Motor Company's Scientific Research Lab. Dr. Sheppard's graduate work was done at the University of Michigan.

  • Gary Lichtenstein,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mechanical Engineering Stanford University
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    • Gary Lichtenstein is consulting professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University. He also owns Quality Evaluation Designs, a firm specializing in education and community-based research. He holds a doctorate in Education from Stanford University. For nearly 20 years he has conducted research and evaluation for K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and non-profit and government agencies nationwide. His intellectual interests include mixed-methods research, community-based research, and engineering education. Dr. Lichtenstein lives in southeast Utah, where he also wrangles llama on commercial hiking trips and is the captain of the Bluff Volunteer Fire Department.

  • Ozgur Eris,

    Corresponding author
    1. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
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    • Ozgur Eris is assistant professor of Design and Mechanical Engineering at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. His research interests include engineering design theory, design thinking, design informatics, and distributed product development. He received a B.S. from the University of Washington, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. He has published on the role of inquiry in design, design knowledge generation and capture, and data mining. He is the author of Effective Inquiry for Engineering Design (Kluwer, 2004).

  • Debbie Chachra,

    Corresponding author
    1. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
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    • Debbie Chachra is assistant professor of Materials Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Her educational research interests include persistence, gender, and immigrant status in the context of engineering study. Her scientific research interests focus on biological materials in health and disease as well as cellsubstrate mechanical interactions. Prior to joining Olin College, she was a postdoctoral researcher at MIT on a NSERC (Canada) Fellowship. She received her B.A.Sc., M.A.Sc., and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.

  • Richard A. Layton

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mechanical Engineering Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
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    • Richard A. Layton is associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and, for the 2007–2008 academic year, a visiting associate professor in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington and a B.S. in Engineering from California State University, Northridge. Dr. Layton worked for twelve years in consulting engineering, culminating as a group head and a project manager. His interest in the quality of the student teaming experience and the technical merit of student team deliverables is based on this background in project management. He gives workshops on building student teams and peer evaluation, assessing laboratory courses, and turning lectures into mini-laboratory experiences. Layton's expertise includes designing visual displays of quantitative information.


School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1305, 701 West Stadium Avenue, West Lafayette, IN, 47907; telephone: (+1) 765.496.1316; fax: (+1) 765.494.5819; e-mail: ohland@purdue. edu.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305; telephone: (+1) 650.725.1590; fax: (+1) 650.723.3521; e-mail: sheppard@stanford.edu.

e-mail: garyL@stanfordalumni.org.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Olin Way, Needham, MA 02492; telephone: (+1) 781.292.2554; fax: (+1) 781.292.2505; e-mail: ozgur.eris@olin.edu.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Olin Way, Needham, MA 02492; telephone: (+1) 781.292.2546; fax: (+1) 781.292.2505; e-mail: debbie.chachra@olin.edu.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 5500 Wabash Ave., CM 191, Terre Haute, IN 47803; telephone: (+1) 812.243.2269; fax: (+1) 812.877.8025; e-mail: layton@rose-hulman.edu.

Abstract

Records from the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development indicate that engineering students are typical of students in other majors with respect to: persistence in major; persistence by gender and ethnicity; racial/ethnic distribution; and grade distribution. Data from the National Survey of Student Engagement show that this similarity extends to engagement outcomes including course challenge, faculty interaction, satisfaction with institution, and overall satisfaction. Engineering differs from other majors most notably by a dearth of female students and a low rate of migration into the major. Noting the similarity of students of engineering and other majors with respect to persistence and engagement, we propose that engagement is a precursor to persistence. We explore this hypothesis using data from the Academic Pathways Study of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education. Further exploration reveals that although persistence and engagement do not vary as much as expected by discipline, there is significant institutional variation, and we assert a need to address persistence and engagement at the institutional level and throughout higher education. Finally, our findings highlight the potential of making the study of engineering more attractive to qualified students. Our findings suggest that a two-pronged approach holds the greatest potential for increasing the number of students graduating with engineering degrees: identify programming that retains the students who come to college committed to an engineering major, and develop programming and policies that allow other students to migrate in. There is already considerable discourse on persistence, so our findings suggest that more research focus is needed on the pathways into engineering, including pathways from other majors.

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