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Communities Support Engineering as a College Major Choice

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

NSF Grantees: Diversity 1

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

12

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34307

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34307

Download Count

71

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Paper Authors

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Stacey L. Vaziri Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Stacey Vaziri is a PhD candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She received her M.S. in Materials Engineering from Purdue University and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Her research interests include access to higher education and broadening participation in engineering.

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Marie C. Paretti Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2202-6928

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Marie C. Paretti is a Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Jacob R. Grohs Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Jacob Grohs is an Assistant Professor in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech with Affiliate Faculty status in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics and the Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech. He holds degrees in Engineering Mechanics (BS, MS) and in Educational Psychology (MAEd, PhD).

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Liesl M. Baum Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Liesl Baum is the Associate Director for Professional Development at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She is a former middle school teacher and spent seven years teaching in Virginia public schools. Her research interests and goals are to develop a frame of mind that allows for creativity to develop among students and faculty of all levels. She works with university faculty to identify and build teaching strategies that encourage creativity for learning. Her research and work interests remain across the full realm of education and preparing educators to design and develop teaching and learning opportunities that encourage students to take risks, inquire across multiple disciplines, and participate in grand challenges. Liesl received her B.S. in Middle Education and M.S. in Educational Technology, both from Radford University. She received her doctorate in instructional design and technology from Virginia Tech.

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Marlena McGlothlin Lester Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Marlena McGlothlin Lester is the Director of Advising for the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She leads the undergraduate advising team and oversees the advising process for all General Engineering students. She is responsible for the development of a hands-on, minds-on orientation model for all first-year engineering students, the creation of a comprehensive engineering major exploration tool, Explore Engineering, and enhancement of the academic planning resources available for first-year engineering students. Marlena strives to transform the advising experience for students and advisors through communication, collaboration, and consistency.

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Phyllis Leary Newbill Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Phyllis Newbill is the Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) at Virginia Tech. She serves as the liaison between the university and the Science Museum of Western Virginia and directs the Virginia Tech Science Festival. She has worked in science education at preschool, high school, university, and adult education levels. She has both formal and informal instructional experience. Her research interests include museum learning, science education, critical and creative thinking, outdoor education, gender issues in education, rural education, and incorporating the arts into standards-based instruction. She received a double B.S. in Geology and English from Radford University in 1998. She received her M.S. In Environmental and Engineering Geosciences from Radford University in 2001. She earned her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Instructional Design and Technology in 2005. Phyllis has worked with ICAT and its prototypes since 2007.

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Abstract

Project funded by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

Broadening participation in engineering is critical given the gap between the nation’s need for engineering graduates and its production of them. Efforts to spark interest in engineering among PreK-12 students have increased substantially in recent years as a result. However, past research has demonstrated that interest is not always sufficient to help students pursue engineering majors, particularly for rural students. In many rural communities, influential adults (family, friends, teachers) are often the primary influence on career choice, while factors such as community values, lack of social and cultural capital, limited course availability, and inadequate financial resources act as potential barriers. To account for these contextual factors, this project shifts the focus from individual students to the communities to understand how key stakeholders and organizations support engineering as a major choice and addresses the following questions:

RQ1: What do current undergraduate engineering students from rural high schools describe as influences on their choice to attend college and pursue engineering as a post-secondary major?

RQ2: How does the college choice process differ for rural students who enrolled in a 4-year university immediately after high school and those who transferred from a 2-year institution?

RQ3: How do community members describe the resources that serve as key supports as well as the barriers that hinder support in their community?

RQ4: What strategies do community members perceive their community should implement to enhance their ability to support engineering as a potential career choice?

RQ5: How are these supports transferable or adaptable by other schools? What community-level factors support or inhibit transfer and adaptation?

To answer the research questions, we employed a three-phase qualitative study. Phase 1 focused on understanding the experiences and perceptions of current [University Name] students from higher-producing rural schools. Analysis of focus group and interview data with 52 students highlighted the importance of interest and support from influential adults in students’ decision to major in engineering. One key finding from this phase was the importance of community college for many of our participants. Transfer students who attended community college before enrolling at [University Name] discussed the financial influences on their decision and the benefits of higher education much more frequently than their peers. In Phase 2, we used the findings from Phase 1 to conduct interviews within the participants’ home communities. This phase helped triangulate students’ perceptions with the perceptions and practices of others, and, equally importantly, allowed us to understand the goals, attitudes, and experiences of school personnel and local community members as they work with students. Participants from the students’ home communities indicated that there were few opportunities for students to learn more about engineering careers and provided suggestions for how colleges and universities could be more involved with students from their community. Phase 3, scheduled for Spring 2020, will bring the findings from Phases 1 and 2 back to rural communities via two participatory design workshops. These workshops, designed to share our findings and foster collaborative dialogue among the participants, will enable us to explore factors that support or hinder transfer of findings and to identify policies and strategies that would enhance each community’s ability to support engineering as a potential career choice.

Vaziri, S. L., & Paretti, M. C., & Grohs, J. R., & Baum, L. M., & McGlothlin Lester, M., & Newbill, P. L. (2020, June), Communities Support Engineering as a College Major Choice Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34307

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