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Development of an Interview Protocol to Understand Engineering as a Career Choice for Appalachian Youth

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.429.1 - 23.429.14



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Paper Authors


Cheryl Carrico PE Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Cheryl Carrico is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, an M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, an M.BA, and is a licensed professional engineer. Ms. Carrico has over 20 years of experience in engineering practice and has work as an engineering manager for General Dynamics. In addition to research concerning career choices for Appalachian students, Cheryl supports several K-12 STEM outreach initiatives in southwest Virginia.

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Matthew Arnold Boynton PE Virginia Tech

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech


Marie C Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Marie C. Paretti is an associate professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication and teamwork in engineering, design education, and engineering identity. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is co-PI. Her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, the effects of curriculum on design cognition, 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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Understanding the Barriers to Engineering as a Career Choice for Appalachian Youth: Qualitative Findings of InfluencersThe Appalachian region, home to approximately 25 million people, sees little inward migrationas a whole and corporations located in the region consistently struggle to hire qualified localworkforce, including engineers. Moreover, Appalachian youth tend not to pursue highereducation including engineering. Understanding career choices of Appalachian youth can lead tointerventions that not only close a gap for a skilled workforce in Appalachia but also helpdiversify the engineering pipeline. Appalachian students merit study because they have a uniquecombination of rural population and small schools, higher than average rates of poverty, lowerthan average educational attainment, a high percentage of blue-collar employment, and lessethnic diversity than non-Appalachian regions. Existing literature regarding engineering careerchoices is not set in Appalachia, and Appalachian career choice literature does not addressengineering. Therefore, this paper addresses a critical research gap by focusing on Appalachianstudents and engineering career choices.As part of a National Science Foundation grant, we are conducting a three-phase, sequentialmixed method project to research influencing factors specific to Appalachia in which interviewswill inform survey development to provide generalizable results. Outcomes from both datasetswill be used to develop an empirical theory, based on Social Cognitive Career Theory and FuturePossible Selves, to explain the gap in engineering as a career choice, and then to developpotential interventions to increase engineering career choice in the region. The outcomes fromthis study will be useful to engineering educators, researchers and those doing outreach to highschool communities. Our findings re-enforce that underrepresented students cannot be treated asa single group. Appalachian students are represented in engineering but factors contributing tocareer choices are not the same as other under-represented groups. As a result, our findingsprovide a foundation for developing targeted outreach activities.This paper describes the overall project, the method used to obtain contextually specific career-influencing factors, and initial qualitative data analysis to support the validity of the interviewmethod. Because little is known about engineering career choice among Appalachian students,interviews are central to providing the context-specific information needed for robust surveydevelopment. Therefore, we are interviewing Appalachian high schools students for a currentperspective, Appalachian college students enrolled in engineering for a recent reflection, andworking engineering professionals in Appalachia for a longer-term reflection. Semi-structuredinterview protocols were developed for each participant type; the three protocols includequestions related to social cognitive career theory, expectancy-value theory, and future possibleselves. The protocols were expert reviewed and piloted by multiple researchers. Interviews wererecorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using MAXQDA software.Preliminary findings support the protocol’s ability to provide meaningful information formultiple frameworks. Initial findings from a priori coding of the framework constructs suggestthat influences specific to Appalachian students exist within the interview data. Additionally, astrength of interviewing in a quasi-longitudinal approach was realized. Specifically, interviewswith college students and professionals yielded insights that informed the high school interviewprotocol and question probes.

Carrico, C., & Boynton, M. A., & Matusovich, H. M., & Paretti, M. C. (2013, June), Development of an Interview Protocol to Understand Engineering as a Career Choice for Appalachian Youth Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19443

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