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Building Student Commitment To Engineering

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.92.1 - 1.92.8



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Paper Authors

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Raymond B. Landis

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

Session 2470


Raymond B. Landis California State University, Los Angeles

INTRODUCTION Studies of the graduation rates of underrepresented minority students in engineering indicate that Hispanic students are retained at about two-thirds the rate of all engineering students and that African 1 American students are retained at about one-half the rate of all engineering students. The primary response of engineering education to the differential success of underrepresented students has been to create minority engineering programs (MEPs) whose mission is to enhance the academic performance and increase the graduation rates of minority students. Studies of the effectiveness of these programs have indicated that a well-designed MEP has the 2 potential to bring about a doubling or even tripling of the graduation rates of participating students. The current overall poor retention of minority students suggests that many existing MEPs are not operating up to this potential. The purpose of this paper is to discuss one key strategy for enhancing student success which undoubtedly needs strengthing in many MEPs building student commitment to engineering. 3 In his classic book, Leaving College, Vincent Tinto indicates eight primary reasons why students fail to complete their college education. The first of these is “intention” and the second is “commitment.” According to Tinto, “Whether they are phrased in terms of educational or occupational goals, individual intentions . . . are important predictors of the likelihood of degree completion.” But having a clear goal is not enough. As Tinto indicates, the departure of many students “is less a reflection of the lack of ability or even of intention than it is of an inability or unwillingness to apply their talents to the attainment of desired goals.” This is particularly true in engineering study, one of the most difficult and demanding within the university. Only students with a strong commitment are likely to put in the time and effort required to succeed. Unfortunately, many students enter engineering study without a clear picture of what engineering is or of the rewards and opportunities of an engineering career. Although the need to remedy this situation exists among all students, it may be even greater among traditionally underrepresented students. The differentially high attrition rate of minority engineering students is perhaps in itself evidence of a differential commitment to engineering study. Although the need to strengthen traditionally underrepresented students’ commitment to engineering study is critically important, those minority engineering program staff charged with this task may not be

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Landis, R. B. (1996, June), Building Student Commitment To Engineering Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5903

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