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Characteristics of Students Self-Selecting into a Freshman Living-Learning Community for Engineers and Computer Scientists

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First Year Programs Division Poster Session: The Best Place to Really Talk about First-Year Education

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.345.1 - 26.345.14



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Paper Authors


Stephen E Silliman Gonzaga University

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Silliman is the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Gonzaga University.

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Toni Boggan Gonzaga University

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Boggan is the Academic Director at the Center for Engineering Design and Entrepreneurship at Gonzaga University (Spokane, Wash.).

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Vladimir A Labay Gonzaga University

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Dr. Vladimir Labay is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Gonzaga University. He earned a B.Sc. (E.E.) and an M.Sc. (E.E.) from the University of Manitoba in 1987 and 1990, respectively. After graduating with a Ph.D. from the University of Victoria in 1995, he remained in Victoria as a lecturer and small business owner until he accepted an assistant professor position in 1999 at Eastern Washington University. In 2007 and 2014, Dr. Labay was visiting faculty at SRM University in Chennai, India and at Ohio Northern University, respectively. His research interests include the modeling and development of microwave/millimeter-wave integrated circuit devices used in wireless and satellite communications. For the past several years, he has been active in the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) initiative at Gonzaga University that focuses on developing the entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineering and computer science students.

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George D. Ricco Gonzaga University, Spokane

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George D. Ricco is the KEEN Program Coordinator at Gonzaga University in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He completed his doctorate in engineering education from Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. Previously, he received an M.S. in earth and planetary sciences studying geospatial imaging, and an M.S. in physics studying high-pressure, high-temperature FT-IR spectroscopy in heavy water, both from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He holds a B.S.E. in engineering physics with a concentration in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University. His academic interests include longitudinal analysis, visualization, semantics, team formation, gender issues, existential phenomenology, and lagomorph physiology.

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Suzann Girtz Gonzaga University

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Characteristics of Students Self-Selecting into a Freshman Living- Learning Community for Engineers and Computer ScientistsIncoming freshmen to our School of Engineering and Applied Science have an option to self-select into a living-learning community (LLC, including dormitory and dining facilities). TheLLC is open solely to students indicating interest in pursuing disciplines in engineering orcomputer science. Based at a mid-sized, private university in the Inland Northwest of the UnitedStates, the School focuses efforts in this LLC with the parallel objectives of increasing retentionthrough the first-two years of university-level courses, encouraging greater confidence in thechoice of engineering as a major, and developing an appreciation among the students foreducational opportunities based in Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML). EML, inparticular, involves such activities as engineering-based challenges, external speakers, and in-dorm tutoring sessions run by upper-division students.The LLC houses approximately 20% of our incoming freshman. These students generallyremain within this LLC through their sophomore year. All students in the LLC have applied forthis opportunity prior to entering the university, and the number of applications has typicallybeen very similar to the number of open positions in the dormitory rooms (such that there arefew students turned away from this opportunity).A brief survey instrument applied last spring (Boggan, Bernabe and Sammut, 2014, unpublisheddata) indicated a number of positive indicators relative to students in the LLC (as compared tothose freshman not included in the LLC). These characteristics included higher retention into theengineering majors and higher satisfaction with the choice of engineering.In an effort to determine the degree to which these positive indicators were more closelyidentified with activities in the LLC or with student traits leading to self-selection to the LLCprior to entering the University, a paired survey instrument (beginning and end of fall semester)was used to separate such student self-identified characteristics as: (i) preparation for study in anengineering / computer-science discipline, (ii) probability of successful completion of anengineering / computer-science degree, and (iii) a series of personality traits (e.g., enterprising,creative, etc.).Results from this paired assessment are shown to be related to the earlier positive indicators.Specifically, these results indicate that the earlier results represent a combination of: (i) studentcharacteristics upon entering the university and (ii) activities within the LLC. As such, the LLCappears to have two positive impacts on retention of freshman students. First, the LLC appearsto attract relatively common-minded students, thus providing a strong atmosphere of commonmission. Second, the activities of the LLC appear to support these students through thechallenges of the first year engineering program.

Silliman, S. E., & Boggan, T., & Labay, V. A., & Ricco, G. D., & Girtz, S. (2015, June), Characteristics of Students Self-Selecting into a Freshman Living-Learning Community for Engineers and Computer Scientists Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23684

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