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A Qualitative Study Of The Early Work Experiences Of Recent Graduates In Engineering.

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Describing the Engineering Student Learning Experience Based on CAEE Findings: Part 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.94.1 - 13.94.18



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Paper Authors


Russell Korte The University of Texas-Tyler

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Russell F. Korte, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of human resource development at the University of Texas at Tyler. Dr. Korte is co-researcher on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant with the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). His research interests include higher education, workplace learning, organizational socialization, performance improvement, and engineering education.

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University


William Jordan CRL-Stanford University

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William C. Jordan is a partner-member of the Collaborative Research Lab, Stanford University. His current research is on improving product quality and reliability and on improving white collar work performance. He has also done research on logistics systems, production throughput and scheduling, and planning for manufacturing flexibility.

He received a PhD in Transportation Systems Modeling from Cornell University in 1982, an M.S. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University in 1979, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Syracuse University in 1976.

He is a member of INFORMS and the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

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

A Qualitative Study of the Early Work Experiences of Recent Graduates in Engineering. Abstract

After several years of demanding study, new engineers graduate from higher education as professionals eager to apply their expertise to solving “real world” problems. Yet, the transition from school to the workplace involves a socialization process through which new graduates attempt to learn the specific tasks and expectations of their job and begin to integrate into the social context of the organization. Research indicates that this socialization process is important for framing new employees’ experiences and forming their perceptions of work and the organization. These socialization experiences have immediate effects on job satisfaction and learning, and potentially long-term effects on turnover and commitment to the organization and profession1, 2, 3.

This paper reports the findings of a study investigating the socialization experiences of newly hired engineers in a large U.S.-based, global manufacturing company. In this organization, new engineers encountered engineering processes of a different nature than they learned in school. The social and organizational contexts within which they worked influenced the problems and processes they experienced—often introducing greater complexity, ambiguity, and subjectivity than expected. How the new engineers in this study perceived and learned about engineering work in this organization depended to a large extent on their interactions with coworkers in their work groups. These findings provide greater description and clarification of these socialization experiences, along with the relationship of these experiences to their education.

1. Introduction

Many in industry and academia judge the preparation of new engineers for work to be less than adequate. Efforts to improve the curricula and practices of engineering education include more collaborative and socially based pedagogies (e.g., design thinking, problem-based learning, and cooperative learning), as well as more experiences based in the workplace, e.g., ABET’s professional skills and the attributes of the Engineer of 20204, 5, 6.These efforts have recommended significant revisions to engineering curricula by expanding the content of engineering from its traditional focus on the application of math and science to broader, socially and design-based curricula. These discussions tend to focus on generalized conceptions of practicing engineers and how best to prepare students in engineering programs to acquire these competencies.

This paper focuses on an important process in the preparation of new engineers for work in organizations—specifically the socialization process through which new engineers make the transition from school to the workplace. Although socialization into practice primarily occurs in the workplace, the link between school and the workplace is arguably strongest during this transition. It is during this process that graduates in engineering learn the more about the practice of engineering in the workplace and form their perceptions of the profession and the job. Identifying the characteristics of this unique experience and its relationship to engineering education is the focus of this paper.

Korte, R., & Sheppard, S., & Jordan, W. (2008, June), A Qualitative Study Of The Early Work Experiences Of Recent Graduates In Engineering. Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3520

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015