June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.21.1 - 12.21.13
ABSTRACT Studies have shown that students who live in “Living Learning Communities” (LLCs’), i.e. places of residence where college students live among other students in the same field as their chosen major, are more likely to be retained in engineering programs than those who opt to live in general dorms or off campus. Existing research suggests that the social capital that students develop in these communities is influential in retention. Social capital is defined by World Bank as “the norms and social relations embedded in social structures that enable people to coordinate action to achieve desired goals”. This study looks at the difference in the social networks of students who live in LLC’s and those who do not. These social networks are used to measure the social capital gained by the students within Engineering. Seven freshmen engineering students, who will remain anonymous, at Washington State University participated in the study. Of these seven students, five of them live in Gannon-Goldsworthy, a math, science and engineering living learning community on campus, and the other two lived either in other dorms or off campus. Students’ social networks and their activities with those around them were tracked over the course of term using weekly journals and information sessions. Students were asked to fill out a weekly journal that kept track of who they met, who they spent the most time with, and what they did with these people. In addition, weekly information sessions were held where the students discussed their weekly activities. The social networks of living learning community participants differed significantly from non LLC participants in both the number of engineering students in their networks and their closeness to other engineering students. Students living in Gannon-Goldsworthy had on average three close friends in engineering and four close friends not in engineering. Those who did not live in Gannon-Goldsworthy had an average of 2.5 friends in engineering and eight who were not in engineering. The data also suggests that students’ close friends tend to live in the same residence hall as they do. Differences in students’ social networks and activities suggest that with whom students interact and the degree of interaction with other engineering students may have a positive influence on retention of engineering students.
INTRODUCTION There is a widespread shortage of engineers in the United States and it is important to develop programs that encourage the retention of students within engineering. The rapidly growing population requires engineers to continually come up with new methods for housing, feeding, health care, and more. Consequently, this parallels the need for more and more engineers in all branches. In turn, it becomes necessary to not only attract students to engineering, but to retain them in engineering. The dropout rate of engineers in the freshmen and sophomores years is significant12 and universities nationwide are looking at methods to keep engineering students in engineering. Retention in engineering is not only beneficial to the School of Engineering and Architecture, but also to industry.
LITERATURE REVIEW Studies have shown that retention and student development are correlated with social integration3. It has been suggested that a student’s interaction with his peers is the single most important factor in student development 1,2 and that the lack of peer group study is a significant factor regarding students changing majors from math, science and engineering fields in college14. Tinto’s15 longitudinal model targets academic and social integration as a key reason for students dropping out of college programs as well. The literature clearly states that social integration in
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