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Educating Future Engineers: Role Of Community Colleges

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Rethinking Traditional Pedagogical Strategies

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.436.1 - 15.436.19



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Paper Authors


Frankie Santos Laanan Iowa State University

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Frankie Santos Laanan is associate professor and director of the Office of Community College Research and Policy at Iowa State University. His research focuses on the role of community colleges in serving as a pathway for women and minorities in STEM.

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Dimitra Jackson Iowa State University

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Dimitra Jackson is a doctoral student and research associate in the Office of Community College Research and Policy at Iowa State University. Her research interests focuses on underrepresented students in STEM fields.

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Soko Starobin Iowa State University

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Soko Starobin is assistant professor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University. Her research focuses on gender issues related to STEM.

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Mary Darrow Iowa State University

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Mary Darrow is program coordinator for an NSF funded project focused on the pathway from community college to engineering and doctoral student in higher education at Iowa State University.

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

Educating Future Engineers: Role of Community Colleges


This study is based on the efforts of a dissemination project to increase participation among female students in STEM fields entitled, Pathway to a STEM Baccalaureate Degree: Research Trends, Exemplary Practices, and Successful Strategies, funded by the National Science Foundation (Award #0507882). Having reviewed numerous support programs that are currently funded by NSF to increase numbers of traditionally underrepresented student population in STEM fields, the authors examine exemplary transfer programs that are specifically aimed to increase participations among female students in STEM fields. The purposes of this study are: 1) to understand how gender influenced learning experiences among female students in pre- engineering program at a community college; 2) to provide students the opportunity to reflect on and share their academic and personal experiences; and 3) to identify factors that facilitate female students to pursue transfer from a community college to a four-year university in engineering.

The analytical framework used for this study is based on the ground theories from previous studies on women in STEM fields. A plethora of literature documents negative learning culture and environment at research four-year institutions for female students in STEM fields (Lovitts, 2001; Sax, 1994; Seymore and Hewitt, 1997). A recent study of engineering students at highly ranked West Coast research universities, Vogt, Hocevar, and Hagedorn (2007) found that female students reported greater discrimination. Guided by this framework, this study intends to better understand students’ reflections on their gender conscious opinions on the learning environment at their community college, specifically the unique culture and environment that the college creates to facilitate their success.

Interviews were conducted in spring 2007 at three community colleges with faculty and students. The colleges included: 1) Highline Community College (HCC); and 2) Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) in Washington. HCC and SCCC are part of the Northwest Engineering Talent Expansion Partnership (NW-ETEP) with other partner Washington postsecondary institutions to provide an opportunity for every student who is motivated and prepared to earn an engineering degree in the State of Washington.

The interviews consisted of nine community college faculty, administrators, and program coordinators. The researchers requested the program coordinators to invite specifically female engineering students who are planning to transfer to a four-year institution. Female facilitators guided group interviews to create a safe and comfortable space for the participants to express their opinions. Data from the guided group interviews were tape recorded and transcribed. The researchers reviewed and coded the transcripts to identify recurring themes and opinions.

This research paper presents findings from interviews with female community college students in STEM fields regarding their learning experiences, interaction with faculty, and educational and career aspirations. The authors discuss implications for practice and policy to facilitate female participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Laanan, F. S., & Jackson, D., & Starobin, S., & Darrow, M. (2010, June), Educating Future Engineers: Role Of Community Colleges Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16273

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