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Creating Community: A Pilot Program For Doctoral Students

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Conference

2002 Annual Conference

Location

Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students for Success

Page Count

9

Page Numbers

7.343.1 - 7.343.9

DOI

10.18260/1-2--11008

Permanent URL

https://strategy.asee.org/11008

Download Count

128

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Paper Authors

author page

Mara Wasburn

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

Main Menu Session 2555

Creating Community: A Pilot Program for Doctoral Students

Mara H. Wasburn Purdue University

Abstract

Since the 1960s, the attrition rate of doctoral students has consistently been estimated at 50% nationwide. Explanations include: lax admissions standards, poor advising, student misunderstanding about the nature of graduate education, the process of graduate education itself, and lack of community. In 1999, to address the problem of lack of community, a Research Support Group was formed at Purdue University. Using a networking mentoring/learning communities model, the pilot program sought to provide support and guidance for doctoral students whose progress on their dissertations had stalled. In this paper, I present an overview of the program; some preliminary outcome data; a discussion of the program’s effectiveness, foregrounding the voices of the participants; and some projections for the future.

Introduction

Stories about doctoral students who fail to complete their programs abound. Certainly Purdue University was no exception in 1998 when I received my doctorate. We had our "urban legends;" someone knew someone who knew someone else. I remember noticing that a woman who had been part of my statistics study group was not in any of my classes one semester. When I asked about her, one of my colleagues said she had taken the semester off. One semester stretched into two and then three. She did not return. Neither did the male colleague who had helped me with my dissertation data. Someone thought he had transferred, or perhaps not. He could not be certain. That colleague never returned either.

Since the 1960s, the attrition rate of doctoral students has consistently been estimated at 50% nationwide 1, 2, 3. The attrition rate for women students, especially those in engineering, science, and technology whose problems are exacerbated by their minority status, is estimated to be much higher, as they experience what is termed a “leaky pipeline” at every phase of their education 1, 4, 5, 6 . The costs are measured not only in terms of the toll that failure to complete takes on the many students involved, but also in terms of costs to the university in lost faculty time, and doctoral programs whose very existence is threatened by being deemed unnecessary and/or ineffective 7, 8.

Explanations for the high attrition rate include: lax admissions standards, poor advising, student misunderstanding about the nature of graduate education, the process of graduate education itself, and lack of community. Lovitts argues that it is not primarily the background characteristics students bring with them to the university that affect their outcomes, but rather what happens to them after they arrive1. She maintains that the causes of attrition are deeply

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Wasburn, M. (2002, June), Creating Community: A Pilot Program For Doctoral Students Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11008

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