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Access to Cooperative Education Programs and the Academic and Employment Returns by Race, Gender, and Discipline

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.129.1 - 24.129.6



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Paper Authors


Joyce B. Main Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Joyce B. Main is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning, Teaching, and Social Policy from Cornell University, and an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University and Central Queensland University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University and a Professorial Research Fellow at Central Queensland University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by over $12.8 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011. Dr. Ohland is past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Nichole M. Ramirez Purdue University

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Nichole M. Ramirez is a graduate student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. in aerospace engineering from The University of Alabama and her M.S. in aviation and aerospace management from Purdue University. She is a former recipient of the Purdue Doctoral Fellowship. In addition to cooperative education research, she is also interested in studying student choice and migration engineering and technology.

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Trina L. Fletcher Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Trina Fletcher is an Engineering Education doctoral student at Purdue University. Her research focus includes the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in STEM education with a special focus on women. Prior to Purdue, she spent time in industry along with completing research and writing on STEM education related topics. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Technology and a masters degree in Engineering Management. Follow her on Twitter at STEMGenius.

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Access to Cooperative Education Programs and the Academic and Employment Returns by Race, Gender, and DisciplineA cooperative education program (co-op) in engineering is a partnership between an academicinstitution and an employer designed to engage students in practical engineering experiencethrough rotations of full-time employment and course study. Co-op employment providesstudents with discipline-relevant professional experience, financial support, and early entry intothe engineering labor force while serving as a recruitment tool for co-op companies. While muchis known about the value of cooperative education programs, relatively little is known about whythere are different rates of participation by race/ethnicity and how recruitment and pre-screeningpractices influence the diversity of students who participate in co-op programs. The objectives ofthis research project are to identify factors that influence student access to cooperative educationprograms and to determine the educational and employment returns associated with participation.Data include comprehensive longitudinal academic student records from seven partnerinstitutions that comprise the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating EngineeringLongitudinal Development (MIDFIELD). MIDFIELD includes 23 years of student demographicand transcript data from 1987 through 2009. Methods include descriptive statistics andregression analyses. Across all institutions and years, an average of 23% of engineering studentsin the population participated in a co-op experience. The fraction of co-op students differs byengineering discipline and matriculation year. While male and female students participate atrates consistent with their representation in the engineering student population, Black studentsare much less likely to participate than are Hispanic, Asian, or White students. Due to co-opeligibility requirements, there is differential selection for students who have higher first-yeargrade point averages. This selection bias suggests that the positive outcomes often associatedwith co-op participation may partially be due to the selection of students with higher academicachievement.Additionally, administrative co-op data from a large research-intensive institution are examinedusing descriptive statistics to identify patterns in student interest and placement in co-ops. Datafrom 2011 indicate that 87% of students who expressed an interest in co-ops completed theapplication process. Among those who completed the application process, only 39% receivedand accepted placements. Research findings will also identify the source of non-participationamong students who initially expressed an interest in co-ops distinguishing between student-driven choices, employer hiring practices, and co-op programmatic requirements and policies.This work will thus contribute to the development of strategies to further enhance co-oprecruitment and engagement of engineering students from a broader range of backgrounds,interests, and experiences as a pathway to increase the overall diversity of the professionalengineering labor force.  

Main, J. B., & Ohland, M. W., & Ramirez, N. M., & Fletcher, T. L. (2014, June), Access to Cooperative Education Programs and the Academic and Employment Returns by Race, Gender, and Discipline Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20020

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