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Board 73: Student Perceptions of Engineering Stress Culture

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Karin Jensen University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Karin Jensen is a Teaching Assistant Professor in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before joining UIUC she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Sanofi Oncology in Cambridge, MA. She earned a bachelor's degree in biological engineering from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

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Kelly J. Cross University of Nevada, Reno

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Dr. Cross is currently an Assistant Professor in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the University Nevada Reno. After completing her PhD in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech in 2015, Dr. Cross worked as a post-doctoral researcher with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education and in the Department of Bioengineering with the Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) grant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Cross' scholarship investigated student teams in engineering, faculty communities of practice, and the intersectionality of multiple identity dimensions. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion in STEM, intersectionality, teamwork and communication skills, assessment, and identity construction. Her teaching philosophy focuses on student centered approaches such as culturally relevant pedagogy. Dr. Cross' complimentary professional activities promote inclusive excellence through collaboration.

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Stress is a particularly salient feature for engineering students who report high levels of stress (1, 2). However, the association of stress as part of engineering culture and the implications for engineering programs has not been fully explored in the literature. Studies on engineering culture describe a particularly bleak outlook, with the rigor and selectivity of engineering programs perpetuating a “meritocracy of difficulty” (3) where student success can be interpreted as “being able to take it” (4). Within engineering, disciplinary subcultures have also been described (5). This work is part of a larger study to understand how students experience stress as part of engineering culture. The overarching goal of the project is to understand how a culture of stress develops in engineering and how it impacts student perceptions of inclusion in engineering disciplines and their level of identification in engineering. Our previous work has indicated that correlative relationships exist between engineering student identity, perceptions of inclusion, and self-reported stress, anxiety, and depression (2). The current work is project status update to present results of a thematic analysis of the student comments about culture in engineering in response to open-ended questions collected as part of a larger survey (2). At the end of the survey students had the opportunity to respond to the prompt “Is there anything else you would like to share that was not included on the survey?” The original survey collected responses from 1,193 students and 174 of these respondents provided additional comments that are the focus of this analysis (~10% response rate). Through this analysis, we identify themes in how students openly describe engineering culture and the perceptions of inclusion and mental health in engineering. Common themes that emerged in the thematic analysis were the association of mental health problems with studying engineering and negative culture in engineering. Students also expressed the need for greater attention to mental health of undergraduates in engineering programs. Analysis of student comments and discussion of the implications for engineering programs are discussed.

Jensen, K., & Cross, K. J. (2019, June), Board 73: Student Perceptions of Engineering Stress Culture Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32418

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