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Addressing Student Retention In Engineering And Engineering Technology Through The Use Of A Multidisciplinary Freshman Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD9 -- Teaching Methods & Technology

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.180.1 - 12.180.9



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Paper Authors


Anthony Dean Old Dominion University

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ANTHONY W. DEAN is Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology at Old Dominion University. He received a Ph.D. in Engineering Management and a B.S. in Engineering Technology from ODU. Additionally, Dr. Dean received an MBA from the College of William and Mary. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Dean was Director of Operations and Business Development for Clark-Smith Associates, P.C., and served as an Electrician in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS South Carolina and the USS Enterprise.

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Bonita Anthony Old Dominion University

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BONITA G. ANTHONY is the Director of Advising and the Assistant Director of the Engineering Fundamentals Division at Old Dominion University. She received a M.Div. from Virginia Union University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from ODU. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Anthony was a secondary school educator teaching technology education courses, and has worked as an Electronics Engineer.

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Linda Vahala Old Dominion University

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LINDA L. VAHALA is Associate Dean of the Batten College of Engineering & Technology and Associate Vice Provost for Distance Learning at Old Dominion University. She received her Ph. D from Old Dominion University, and an M.S from the University of Iowa. Dr. Vahala is an Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at ODU.

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

Addressing Student Retention in Engineering and Engineering Technology Through the Use of a Multidisciplinary Freshman Course


The Engineering Fundamentals Division of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology (BCET) at Old Dominion University administers a freshman engineering course sequence, along with four engineering departments (Mechanical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering) and the Department of Engineering Technology (which offers degrees in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Civil Engineering Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology). The two course sequence, Exploring Engineering and Technology I and II, involve the five departments in teaching at least one five week module in each of the two courses. Each department generally involves the students in a basic design project related to its discipline.

The freshman course sequence has provided an excellent opportunity for the BCET to interact with first year engineering students to address the issues related to student retention and allows the division to provide student guidance in determining the appropriate major that best satisfies their individual needs in choosing a career in Engineering and Engineering Technology. The short time available to each program presents unique challenges in giving the students a meaningful experience in each discipline represented in the program. This paper presents these challenges and how the program has addressed them, as well as the continual process improvement being undertaken by the faculty to keep the program engaging for the students. Additionally this paper highlights the retention rate changes in the college as a result of this program.


Retention of engineering students has become a major undertaking for most institutions with engineering programs. Much of this retention effort is taking place at the freshmen level, where dropout rates have been the highest. Institutions are developing innovative ways to maintain interest of freshmen students in their disciplines and the desire to continue.

The Engineering Fundamentals Division at the Old Dominion University has been in existence for several years. The Division prepares intended Engineering majors for admission to a degree- granting Department in the College of Engineering. Central to the Division is a two-course sequence for first-year students with the objective of providing an authentic engineering design experience and an introduction to engineering. The concept of “engineering up-front” with hands-on, team-oriented introduction to engineering is the philosophy behind the course.1 The enhancement of the Division with these courses to enhance interest in engineering leading to higher matriculation rates, increased retention, and ultimately a higher graduation rate.

Dean, A., & Anthony, B., & Vahala, L. (2007, June), Addressing Student Retention In Engineering And Engineering Technology Through The Use Of A Multidisciplinary Freshman Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2692

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