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Changes in Undergraduate Engineering College Climate and Predictors of Major Commitment: Results from Climate Studies in 2008 and 2015

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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

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session - Understanding and Changing Engineering Culture

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Mary E Fitzpatrick University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering

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Mary Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. is an educational psychology researcher and former engineer. She directs the student programs and initiatives offered by the Diversity Affairs Office at the UW Madison College of Engineering, evaluates program outcomes for diversity initiatives and conducts original research in the area of underrepresented individuals and organizational climate in engineering education and the workplace. Dr. Fitzpatrick holds an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and was a practicing engineer for GE, Microsoft and other leading companies before earning her Ph.D. in educational psychology.

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Manuela Romero University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Manuela Romero is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Jennifer Sheridan University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Dr. Sheridan is the Executive and Research Director of the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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This paper presents results of two cross-sectional investigations of educational and interpersonal climate in a college of engineering at a large mid-western university. In 2008 and in 2015 we deployed a survey ("Project to Assess Climate in Engineering”) to undergraduate engineering students. In each survey year, just over 1000 eligible students participated and responded to questions about their professors, teaching assistants, college resources, interpersonal experiences, perceptions of engineering, and commitment to their major. Participants were also asked about experiences of being singled-out based on race or gender, hearing gender or racial stereotypes expressed by faculty or students, sexual harassment and racial harassment. The survey instrument was designed to contain items forming six scale factors. Scale means and some individual items were analyzed for differences by demographic group, and were compared to data collected by the same institution in 2008. Results revealed significant differences in attitudes and experiences from 2008 to 2015 for the entire sample and within demographic groups. Experiences of stereotyping and harassment were reported at higher rates across all groups in 2015 compared to 2008. To investigate the influence of demographic and scale factors on commitment to major, we formed a combined regression equation using survey year as a predictor and performed a stepped regression with demographic variables, scale factors and stereotyping/harassment items as predictors. Results revealed a significant predictor effect of survey year. Thus, individual regression analysis of each year was performed. Results suggest factors influencing engineering students’ commitment to their major may have evolved substantially since 2008. Among other findings, while underrepresented minority and international status negatively influenced commitment to major in 2008, neither underrepresented minority nor international status had a significant influence on commitment to major in our 2015 sample. 

Fitzpatrick, M. E., & Romero, M., & Sheridan, J. (2016, June), Changes in Undergraduate Engineering College Climate and Predictors of Major Commitment: Results from Climate Studies in 2008 and 2015 Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26475

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