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Does A Survey Course On Engineering Careers Improve First Year Engineering Retention?

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Retention Tools and Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.499.1 - 14.499.15

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Paper Authors


Cindy Veenstra Engineering education consultant

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Cindy P. Veenstra, Ph.D. is principal consultant for Veenstra and Associates ( Her research includes the development of system process improvement strategies for achieving a higher engineering college student retention. She earned her Ph.D. in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan with a research focus on modeling first-year engineering retention. Dr. Veenstra's research has been published in the Advances in Engineering Education, the Journal of Engineering Education and the Journal for Quality and Participation. She is a director of the College-Industry Partnerships Division of ASEE. She also serves on the ASQ Higher Education Advisory Council. Her professional affiliations include ASEE, ASHE, INFORMS, SME and she is a Fellow of ASQ. She may be reached at

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Gary D. Herrin University of Michigan

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Gary D. Herrin, Ph.D. is Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is a member of ASEE, ASQ and IIE. He can be reached at

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

Does a Survey Course on Engineering Careers Improve First-Year Engineering Retention?


With a need for more engineers in the United States, there is a strong interest in student success programs and curriculum changes that improve student retention. As a part of a research project to study the modeling of first-year engineering retention at the University of Michigan, the relationship between enrollment in an engineering survey course on engineering careers and first-year retention was studied. Experienced faculty teach the course on career opportunities in the engineering fields that are supported in the College of Engineering.

The retention rate of students enrolled in this first-year course on engineering careers was compared to students not enrolled. First-year retention of engineering students was 4.4% higher for students enrolled in this course compared to students who were not enrolled. This difference

discussed in this paper.

Many students come to engineering college without a clear understanding of an engineering career. The significance of this course in improving the first-year retention strongly supports the need for similar courses in engineering colleges. The empirical results in this paper are supportive of current research on first-year engineering retention.


As the engineering community further considers the need for more engineers, it is imperative that students interested in an engineering career are mentored, encouraged and advised about the excitement of a career in engineering. The freshman year is a year of transition. Some students will decide to pursue another career. Yet, the question can seriously be asked whether engineering colleges are doing enough to educate first-year students on the career path of engineering and the career fulfillment associated with an engineering career.

This paper explores the college retention experiences of Michigan Engineering with its elective, first- year lecture course, Engineering 110, The Engineering Profession presents the engineering career choices in a lecture format. It is different from the Engineering 100 courses in that its purpose is to give students information on choosing an engineering major and career. Most Engineering 100 courses discuss engineering design and provide hands-on experience fo Engineering Profession urse is a broad-brush approach with lectures by experienced faculty on each discipline of engineering, its advantages and goals.

Research has indicated that family members influence students in their engineering college major. The Astin and Astin study1 showed that a key factor for choosing an engineering major was having a father who was an engineer. This research finding was again supported by the Seymour and Hewitt study.2 Even though more high schools are developing a career course required for all students, the evidence is still clear that most information about engineering

Veenstra, C., & Herrin, G. D. (2009, June), Does A Survey Course On Engineering Careers Improve First Year Engineering Retention? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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