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Climate For Graduate Students In Science And Engineering Departments

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative Graduate Programs & Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.308.1 - 10.308.16



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Paper Authors

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Suzanne Brainard

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Sheila Edwards Lange

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Elizabeth Litzler

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

Climate for Graduate Students in Science and Engineering Departments

Elizabeth Litzler, Sheila Edwards Lange, and Suzanne G. Brainard Center for Workforce Development, University of Washington

Abstract Departmental climate and academic/social integration are key factors influencing the retention and advancement of female graduate students [1]. Yet little is known about graduate student perceptions relative to department climate or their social and academic experiences in science and engineering graduate programs. Recent studies on graduate education highlight the need for more research in this area [2-4]. Administered at a large Pacific Northwest research university, the Science and Engineering Graduate Student Experience Survey explores graduate student perceptions about faculty relationships, departmental climate and the relevance of work/life issues in decision-making. Responses totaled 574 graduate students from 18 science and engineering departments. The survey data was disaggregated by gender, science/engineering departments, and program level (Masters vs. Ph.D.). Results suggest that there are significant differences between male and female graduate students, graduate students in science and engineering departments, as well as different gender issues in science departments than in engineering departments. Logistic regression was used to test the association of climate and integration factors with graduate degree progress. Multinomial logit regression estimates the effects of climate and integration measures on career commitment. Both regression analyses find that certain aspects of climate and integration are significantly associated with graduate student advancement and retention.

I. Introduction Graduate enrollments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) reached a record high of 455,400 students in the fall of 2002. According to the National Science Foundation, the number of women graduate students in STEM has increased every year for the last twenty years and more than 40% of STEM graduate students are women [5]. As science and engineering graduate programs become more diverse, it is imperative that we know more about gender differences in perceptions about the climate for graduate students in STEM academic departments. Negative perceptions about departmental climate during graduate school can hinder the development of relationships with faculty and peers that are critical to graduate students’ social and academic integration into academic departments. Prior research suggests that perceptions about department climate, integration experiences and concerns about work/life balance may coalesce in significantly different ways for male and female STEM graduate students[3, 4, 6-10].

This research study sought to explore the extent to which department climate, integration experiences and concerns about work/life balance are related to gender differences in degree progress and commitment to STEM professional careers. The institution at which the study took place was one of the initial institutions to receive a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Award to advance female faculty careers in STEM. At the time of “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Brainard, S., & Edwards Lange, S., & Litzler, E. (2005, June), Climate For Graduate Students In Science And Engineering Departments Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14279

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