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.
Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering Programs
Article first published online: 2 JAN 2013
2008 American Society for Engineering Education
Journal of Engineering Education
Volume 97, Issue 3, pages 259–278, July 2008
How to Cite
Ohland, M. W., Sheppard, S. D., Lichtenstein, G., Eris, O., Chachra, D. and Layton, R. A. (2008), Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering Programs. Journal of Engineering Education, 97: 259–278. doi: 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2008.tb00978.x
- Issue published online: 2 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 2 JAN 2013
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.