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Business Program Participation and Engineering Innovation: An Exploration of Engineering Students' Minors, Certificates, and Concentrations

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Emily Cao Stanford University

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Mechanical Engineering student at Stanford University.

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Shannon Katherine Gilmartin Stanford University Orcid 16x16


Qu Jin Stanford University

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Qu Jin is a postdoctoral scholar in the Designing Education Lab at Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University in 2013, M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University in 2009, and B.S. degree in Material Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University in China in 2007. Her research interests focus on educational studies that can help improve teaching, learning, and educational policy decision makings using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her current research project in National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) focuses on measuring engineering students’ entrepreneurial interests and related individual characteristics. Her Ph.D. dissertation involved using statistical modeling methods to explain and predict engineering students’ success outcomes, such as retention, academic performance, and graduation.

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Carolin Christin Dungs Stanford University


Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2011 Dr. Sheppard was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Although engineering students’ formal, curricular-based learning experiences may involve far more than the content included in their majors, little is known about the range of minors, certificates, and concentrations available to engineering students, much less the relationships between participating in these programs and affective and behavioral outcomes of interest to engineering educators. This study represents an initial investigation of these types of programs. Grounding this study is the Innovation Education Continuum Framework developed by Duval-Couetil and Dyrenfurth (2012). In this framework, being innovative can be divided into “Innovation Process” and “Innovation Outcomes” categories; “creativity” and “design” are considered Innovation Processes, whereas “business”, “entrepreneurship”, and “leadership” are considered Innovation Outcomes. The analyses in this paper examine engineering students’ participation in Process and Outcome minors, certificates, and concentrations, and the associations between participation, innovation self-efficacy, and gender. The primary research questions driving this study are: Is there a relationship between participation in academic innovation programs and improved innovation self-efficacy? Is there a difference in the types of self-efficacy exhibited by participants of Process and Outcomes programs?

The study draws from data collected as part of the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), a national survey administered in 2015 to engineering juniors and seniors across 27 U.S. universities, which received over 7,000 responses. Background questions concerning field of study indicate respondents were pursuing one of 39 unique engineering majors (or, for a small proportion of respondents, two engineering majors, or one engineering and one non-engineering major), as well as more than 2,500 concentrations within those majors. Respondents were also asked to write-in any minors or certificates pursued in order to generate a complete picture of students’ academic programs. Approximately 27% reported having a minor, and 36% reported having a certificate (percentages are not mutually exclusive). Concentrations, minors, and certificates were then categorized into Process and Outcome fields based on a keyword search of topics and competencies addressed in existing innovation courses. The most popular Process programs (79% of total programs) were related to design, human computer interaction, and product and process engineering; the most popular Outcomes programs (76% of total programs) were related to business, economics, and management. Women were no more/less than were men to participate in these specific types of programs. The EMS included a construct labeled Innovation Self-Efficacy; sample items include ability to generate new ideas, build a network of contacts, and ask questions (all measured on a 5-point scale, from 0 = “not confident” to 4 = “extremely confident”). A breakdown of responses for the self-efficacy questions suggests a relationship between Process and Outcomes program participation and higher self-efficacy. Implications for the relationship between participation in innovation programs and improved self-efficacy are discussed.

Cao, E., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Jin, Q., & Dungs, C. C., & Sheppard, S. (2016, June), Business Program Participation and Engineering Innovation: An Exploration of Engineering Students' Minors, Certificates, and Concentrations Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26418

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