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A Novel Tool to Visualize Student Flow Through the Curriculum

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

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August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Carolyn Skurla Baylor University

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Carolyn Skurla is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Baylor University. She received a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University.

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Dennis Lee O'Neal P.E. Baylor University

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Dr. Dennis L. O’Neal joined Baylor University as the Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science in August 2012. Prior to coming to Baylor, Dr. O’Neal had served as both the Associate Dean of Engineering at Texas A&M University and the Deputy Director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station in College Station Texas where he oversaw a $150 million dollar research enterprise. Dr. O'Neal served as the head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University from 2003 to 2011 and had been on faculty there since 1983. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1982.

Dr. O’Neal’s primary areas of expertise are in energy and the thermal sciences. He has published over 65 journal articles from his research and two book chapters.
He is a fellow in both ASHRAE and ASME.

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Engineering enrollment at our university increased by more than 110% from fall 2001 to fall 2010. The increase taxed both our faculty and our facilities and prompted the need for enrollment management measures. Risk-factor and logistic regression analyses led to the implementation of a B or better requirement for the freshmen engineering course sequence in fall 2011. Effective with fall 2013, incoming freshmen engineering students were required to meet minimum SAT/ACT scores to declare Pre-Engineering as their major. These students were required to earn semester grades of B or better in the two-semester freshmen engineering course sequence to qualify to declare a degree-granting engineering major. These policies were coupled with aggressive advising for at-risk students with the intent to improve retention to graduation from our university regardless of their final major. An enrollment model for evaluation of alternative standards for admission was developed in 2014 for enrollment management at a sustainable level. The development of these measures were presented at previous FYEE conferences and resulted in improved 6-year graduation rates among our incoming engineering cohorts in subsequent years. Additional data mining of enrollment databases used in the development of enrollment management measures allowed further slicing of engineering enrollment into smaller cohorts of interest. Example sub-populations of interest include underrepresented minority, women, military veterans, and first-generation students. Further, students who lived in the Engineering and Computer Science Living and Learning Center and, later, Residential College were compared to students who lived in other campus housing to identify retention issues related to their housing location. This amount of data became overwhelming rather quickly. We applied the use of a graphical application, e!Sankey pro (ifu Hamburg GmbH) that is more commonly used by engineers to map energy, fluid, material, or traffic flow in a variety of industries. The movement of students through the engineering curricula was treated as a flow problem. Arrows representing flow of students are sized relative to the original numbers of students in a particular cohort and give the viewer a quick sense of where these students go, whether it is graduation with an engineering degree, retention at our university in another major, or departure from the university. This graphical method applied to student flow allows for the rapid understanding of a great deal of data. It has proved a valuable tool for the assessment of retention and enrollment management measures year by year.

Skurla, C., & O'Neal, D. L. (2021, August), A Novel Tool to Visualize Student Flow Through the Curriculum Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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