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Easing engineering transfer students’ transitions: Recommendations from students who successfully navigated the transfer pathway

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Transfer Issues: Two-year College to Four-year College

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

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Paper Authors


Kirsten A Davis Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Kirsten is a PhD student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also completed her master's degree in Higher Education. She has previously worked in industry in the field of IT analytics and has experience with corporate recruiting. Her primary research interests are engineering study abroad, developing intercultural competency in engineering students, and international higher education.

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Andrea M. Ogilvie P.E. Virginia Tech

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Andrea M. Ogilvie, P.E. is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Currently, she is investigating “Transfer Student Pathways to Engineering Degrees” through a multi-institutional study based in Texas and funded by NSF (EEC-1428502). Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Andrea served as the Director of the Equal Opportunity in Engineering (EOE) Program at The University of Texas at Austin for 11 years. During her term, she raised $3.7 million-plus in private and public grants to support the EOE program and its mission. Andrea holds multiple degrees in engineering and public affairs from UT Austin (BSCE, MPAff) and Virginia Tech (MS ISE, PhD ENGE). Her expertise includes: program management, program assessment, university-industry partnerships, grant writing, and student development in the co-curricular learning environment with a special focus on recruiting, supporting, and graduating students from groups historically underrepresented in engineering.

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David B Knight Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor and Director of International Engagement in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, and Human-Centered Design Program. His research tend to be at the macro-scale, focused on a systems-level perspective of how engineering education can become more effective, efficient, and inclusive.

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The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology documented the need to prepare more than 1 million additional STEM professionals in the U.S. workforce over the next decade, primarily through efforts to increase retention rates and diversify pathways. One pathway that has received strong emphasis from the current administration, in particular because of its potential to create new opportunities to diversify engineering, is the transfer pathway between two-year and four-year institutions. In addition to adopting a guided pathways model to move students logistically from one institution to another, offering multiple kinds of student support to facilitate smooth and successful integration into their new educational environments is critical. This paper draws on data from a study funded by the National Science Foundation that investigates how engineering transfer students navigate this pathway. It specifically investigates how to support transfer students by analyzing open-ended survey responses from 1,070 students and alumni who successfully transferred into engineering at one of two four-year, predominantly white research universities. The survey items asked students to indicate the factors that helped them adjust to their new institutional environments and brainstorm ways that their previous and receiving institutions could have helped ease their transitions. We follow an open coding approach for each response and identify themes that emerge across students. Relevant to this division in particular, we also disaggregate students following vertical (i.e., transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution) versus lateral (i.e., transfer from a four-year to a four-year institution) transfer paths to demonstrate how students identified different support needs as a function of their pathway. This analysis will help four-year institutions in particular recognize that students matriculating from two-year institutions have a unique set of needs and should not be lumped in with a more general consideration of “transfer students.” Our future work will compare students’ responses in this institutional sample to students who transferred into Hispanic-serving institutions as well as investigate differences across subpopulations of students (e.g., Hispanic versus non-Hispanic, first-generation versus non-first generation). Findings will help institutions to: 1) better understand challenges that transfer students face as they transition into engineering at four-year institutions, and 2) make more informed adjustments to their existing transfer processes.

Davis, K. A., & Ogilvie, A. M., & Knight, D. B. (2017, June), Easing engineering transfer students’ transitions: Recommendations from students who successfully navigated the transfer pathway Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28194

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