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Climate Survey in a Mid-Sized Research University Mechanical Engineering Department: Report

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Action on Diversity - Supporting Students at Multiple Levels

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

Page Count

22

DOI

10.18260/1-2--28039

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28039

Download Count

162

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Paper Authors

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Autumn Turpin Stanford University

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Autumn Turpin is a master's student in mechanical engineering studying at Stanford University. She was born and raised in the Bay Area. She has been working with the Designing Education Lab since January '14.

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Kai Jun Chew Stanford University

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Kai Jun (KJ) Chew is a Research Data Analyst in the Mechanical Engineering department at Stanford University. He is leading the effort in the department ABET Accreditation process, conducting continuous improvement of courses and organizing preparation for the next general review. Previously, he has worked in promoting reflection in courses within Stanford University.

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Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a research scientist in the Designing Education Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. She is also a member of the research team in the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Chen earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her Ph.D. in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Stanford University in 1998. Her current research interests include: 1) engineering and entrepreneurship education; 2) the pedagogy of ePortfolios and reflective practice in higher education; and 3) reimagining the traditional academic transcript.

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Beth Rieken Stanford University

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Beth Rieken is a PhD Candidate at Stanford University in the Mechanical Engineering Department. She is in the Designing Education Lab advised by Prof. Sheri Sheppard. Her work focuses on fostering mindful awareness, empathy and curiosity in engineering students. Beth completed a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2010 and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford in 2012.

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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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Abstract

A Western U.S. mid-sized private research university is in the process of restructuring its mechanical engineering undergraduate major. Currently, the mechanical engineering major requires introductory mechanical engineering topics (statics, mechanics of materials, dynamics) as well as upper-division thermoscience and mechanical design courses. Based on student and alumni surveys and feedback, the program is redesigning the major to offer topic concentrations; this will allow students increased flexibility and choice within their major. This time of restructuring is seen as an opportunity for reflection on the program and in particular, a time to assess the undergraduate student climate in the department. Climate is operationalized around the following factors: sense of community, perceptions of diversity of both faculty and students, and perceptions of inclusivity. In addition, the mechanical engineering undergraduate department at this university also houses the biomechanical and product design majors (two general engineering degrees with an emphasis in the mentioned topics). These three majors share a number of core courses, and therefore their experience in the major overlaps to some extent. The presence of “out of major” students in the mechanical engineering core introductory classes has an effect on the climate of the program and how students experience the three majors.

This study is guided by three primary research questions: 1. How might professors, faculty, teaching/course assistants, and students create an inclusive environment in the classroom and office hours? 2. How might the department facilitate a cohesive inter-major community? How does this align with and/or differ from what the students propose? 3. How might physical spaces and tutoring resources be designed and publicized to be better utilized by students?

To answer these questions, information will be collected via surveys administered to and interviews conducted with current students who have declared a major in mechanical, biomechanical, or product design engineering, as well as one or more focus groups with alumni. The information gathered will include students’ study skills and habits, their thoughts on program diversity and inclusivity, experiences with faculty and teaching/course assistants, the community of the program, and demographic information including parents’ education levels and careers, high school classes and exposure to engineering, and engineering activities outside of school. The analysis will be mixed methods, consisting of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the survey data (for multiple choice and short answer survey items), as well as coding of the interviews. The survey instrument draws from existing surveys – the BRAID (Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity) survey including Data Buddies Survey items (Sax, L.J, Blaney, J.M. & Lehman, K.J. (2015). BRAID Introductory Course Surveys; Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (2015). Data Buddies Survey) and the Engineering Majors Survey (National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). 2015. The Engineering Majors Survey Annotated Instrument.) In addition to items from these survey instruments, we have also developed unique survey items specific to the university and student population. The results of this study will be used to inform aspects of the restructuring of the mechanical engineering program, as well as interventions to better utilize current resources as well as possibly design new programs and support services.

Turpin, A., & Chew, K. J., & Chen, H. L., & Rieken, B., & Sheppard, S. (2017, June), Climate Survey in a Mid-Sized Research University Mechanical Engineering Department: Report Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28039

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015