Asee peer logo

Desiging the Pathways of Engineering Alumni Research Survey (PEARS)

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Before and After: Matriculants and Alumni

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.385.1 - 25.385.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Helen L. Chen Stanford University


Michelle Marie Grau Stanford University

visit author page

Michelle Grau is a junior in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, and was one of the students in the first revision of ENGR 14, Introduction to Solid Mechanics. Her research interests include engineering education, robotics in space applications, and using robots to introduce engineering to middle school students. She is passionate about the FIRST Robotics program, in which she coaches teams and volunteers at competitions. She also does wushu and gymnastics.

visit author page


Samantha Ruth Brunhaver Stanford University

visit author page

Samantha Brunhaver is a fourth-year graduate student at Stanford University. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a focus in engineering education. Brunhaver completed a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University in 2008 and a M.S. in mechanical engineering with a focus in design for manufacturing from Stanford in 2010.

visit author page

author page

Shannon Katherine Gilmartin SKG Analysis Orcid 16x16


Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

visit author page

Sheri 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 weld and solder-connect fatigue and impact failures, fracture mechanics, applied finite element analysis, and engineering education. In addition, 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). Sheppard’s graduate work was done at the University of Michigan.

visit author page

author page

Michelle Warner Stanford University

Download Paper |


Designing the Pathways of Engineering Alumni Research Survey (PEARS)In 2008, the Academic Pathways of People Learning Engineering Survey (APPLES) wasdeployed to over 4,500 undergraduate students across the United States with the goal ofcontributing to the understanding of: (1) how students’ engineering knowledge develops andchanges over time; (2) what motivates students to study engineering; and (3) how studentsconceive of their engineering future. As a follow up to APPLES and the Academic PathwaysStudy, both sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education, thePathways of Engineering Alumni Research Survey (PEARS), a focus of the broader EngineeringPathways Study, aims to address two research questions:1. What educational and workplace factors, or combinations of factors, facilitate early careerprofessionals' transition into a professional culture, and their conceptions of and preparation fortheir specific professional careers?2. How and to what extent do the factors that influence early career professionals' professionaldevelopment contribute to their future careers?More specifically, the results of PEARS will: 1) inform the field’s understanding how the collegeexperience advances engineering students’ development as early career professionals and theirconceptions and preparations for their specific careers; 2) identify the educational and workplacefactors, or combinations of factors, that most influence the development of engineering studentsinto successful early career professionals; and 3) illuminate the pathways of early careerprofessionals in terms of planning and preparing to meet future career goals and overcomechallenges.Like its predecessor, PEARS is also an online survey with participants who are geographicallydistributed. However, instead of undergraduate students, PEARS will be piloted withengineering alumni from four institutions in fall 2011. As part of the planning process, extensiveresearch into both the design of the instrument as well as the logistics of deploying successfulonline surveys with our targeted population was conducted. This paper will outline both therationale and the literature behind the research team’s decisions regarding the content of emailrecruitment letters, the choice and number of incentives, the timing of when recruitment emailsand reminders should be sent, how long the survey should be available, and other strategies thatwere considered to maximize the survey response rates among engineering alumni. In addition,we will speak to the unique logistical considerations including partnering with alumniassociations, communicating our research questions to new stakeholders, and designing andtesting a process that could be scaled to include additional institutions and partners. Preliminaryfindings will be shared in addition to lessons learned to inform the redesign of the deploymentplan for future administrations of PEARS.

Chen, H. L., & Grau, M. M., & Brunhaver, S. R., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Sheppard, S., & Warner, M. (2012, June), Desiging the Pathways of Engineering Alumni Research Survey (PEARS) Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21143

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: © 2012 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