June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee
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
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