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A Low Cost Approach To The Retention Of Undergraduate Women Engineering And Science Students

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.20.1 - 3.20.5



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Jeffery McDowell

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Sandra Yost

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1392

A Low-Cost Approach to the Retention of Undergraduate Women Engineering and Science Students

Jeffery McDowell Sandra A. Yost, P.E., Ph.D. University of Detroit Mercy

Abstract Many large universities have established Women in Engineering Programs, complete with full- time staff and office support. Small universities are less able to support a dedicated program from the regular operating budget once initial grant funding runs out. This paper describes an initiative at the University of Detroit Mercy to establish a formal support mechanism for women engineering and science majors. This program, currently in planning, will require little funding, because it utilizes existing resources inside the university, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and residence life and other student life staff.

Background The last twenty years have seen a substantial increase in the number of women choosing academic majors in the sciences and engineering. The University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) has also seen an increase in the number of women students choosing such majors at the time they enroll at the University. However, women also leave these majors in disproportionate numbers. The University of Detroit Mercy is no different than other institutions in this regard either.

Institutions of higher education in the United States have for some time recognized that women are under-represented in these fields. They have attempted to rectify that by increasing the number of women that they recruit and admit into these programs. Other institutions have recognized that merely increasing the number of women who have been admitted to these programs is not enough. They realize that they also need to increase the number of women who complete these programs and graduate with degrees in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

There have been a number of studies, including [1-6] and many others, that have examined why women leave science, engineering and mathematics majors. Some focus on the impact that precollege experiences have upon retention rates. Others have looked at the actual undergraduate experience of women students in these majors to determine what impact that has on persistence of women in these fields.

Among the researchers who have studied the experience of women in science and engineering majors is Elaine Seymour [1-2]. Her articles and books on the retention of women in non- traditional majors have examined many of the factors that have an impact upon the retention of women in these majors. There are a number of factors that have an impact, but a most interesting one is the apparent misfit of women entering these fields with the educational environment that they encounter. This misfit has its most dramatic impact upon these students in their early days

McDowell, J., & Yost, S. (1998, June), A Low Cost Approach To The Retention Of Undergraduate Women Engineering And Science Students Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7267

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