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Building The Engineer In Me: Designing A Seminar For First Year Female Engineering Students

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

1st Year Retention Programs for Women Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.299.1 - 11.299.8



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Paper Authors


Susan Donohue University of Virginia

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Susan Donohue is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering. Her degrees include a B.A. in Political Science from Marquette University (1980) and an M.E. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia (2000). Her academic honors include Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Sigma Nu, and Omega Rho. She is a student member of IEEE and ASEE. Her main research interests include software QA/QC and engineering education. She is a volunteer researcher for the Center for Diversity in Engineering.

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Carolyn Vallas University of Virginia

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Carolyn Vallas is the Director of the Center for Diversity in Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Director of Education for UVa MRSEC. She is also the president of the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates, Inc. (NAMEPA). She is a member of ASEE and Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (WEPAN). She is or has been the PI or Co-PI on several NSF grants relating to engineering education. She advises several student engineering groups at UVa, including NSBE, SHPE, and GEMS. She has a B.A.Ed. in Education from Seattle University, and an MS in Psychology and School Counseling from California State University - Fullerton.

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

Building the Engineer in Me: Designing A Seminar for First-Year Female Engineering Students


Designing an initiative whose goals are to recruit, retain, and support female engineering students provides many opportunities to experiment with different combinations of academic, social, and service models. We present the design process by which one component of the initiative, a seminar aimed introducing first-year female engineering students to the engineering profession, was developed in this paper. The seminar, entitled Building the Engineer in Me, is intended as a cornerstone in the initiative, and, by conscious design, contains innovative and unique features. The initiative, a project involving students, faculty, and administration of the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), will be directed by the Center for Diversity in Engineering (CDE). It is scheduled for launch in AY 2006-7.

Keywords: Recruitment, retention, support, female engineering students


The percentage of undergraduate female engineering students enrolled at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) has remained static at or around 25% since 1994, regardless of strong recruitment and retention efforts primarily led by the Center for Diversity in Engineering (CDE), formerly known as the Office of Minority Programs. SEAS also has the lowest percentage of female undergraduate students among the various schools and programs at the University. Figure 1 in Appendix A is a graphical representation of the enrollment figures for female undergraduate students from the schools and programs at UVa from 1994 to 2005, providing an efficient means of portraying these trends.1 The undergraduate enrollment percentages are mirrored in the female graduate engineering student population at the University as well as at many other American universities.2, 3 Figure 2 in Appendix A is the graduate counterpart to Figure 1.

To combat these trends, CDE proposed the creation of the Women’s Initiative in 2004 to SEAS leadership. The Women’s Initiative, modeled after various Women in Engineering (WIE) and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) at peer institutions (see 4, 5, 6, 7, for example) would be the vehicle for co-ordinating and implementing recruitment, retention, and support activities for both undergraduate and graduate female engineering students. Establishing the Initiative would give greater visibility to these activities, and the additional CDE staff would be dedicated resources. Organizing current and planned activities and outreach projects also provides the opportunity to capture, quantify, and assess project performance in a systematic manner. The ability to evaluate project performance quantitatively is extremely critical to establishing the success of the Initiative.

One popular component of WIE and WISE programs is a seminar offering educational support and networking opportunities with other students, faculty, and industry representatives; see 8, 9, 10, 11 , for example. We decided to develop a similar offering as the first component of the Initiative

Donohue, S., & Vallas, C. (2006, June), Building The Engineer In Me: Designing A Seminar For First Year Female Engineering Students Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1321

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