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Effect of Letter Exchange Program on Student Development, Persistence, and Interest in Civil Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Julie Fogarty California State University, Sacramento

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Dr. Fogarty received her B.S. in Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, M.S. degrees in both Civil & Aerospace Engineering, a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, and a certificate in Engineering Education Research from the University of Michigan. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento with research interests ranging from the seismic behavior of steel structures to improving/expanding the educational methods used in the formation of engineers.

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Nathan E Canney P.E. CYS Structural Engineers Inc.

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Dr. Canney conducts research focused on engineering education, specifically the development of social responsibility in engineering students. Other areas of interest include ethics, service learning, and sustainability education. Dr. Canney received bachelors degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Seattle University, a masters in Civil Engineering from Stanford University with an emphasis on structural engineering, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Benjamin V Fell P.E. California State University, Sacramento

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Professor Fell joined Sacramento State in Fall 2008 after completing his PhD at the University of California, Davis. Prior to that he received his MS from Stanford University and BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Fell's research concentration is on the behavior of steel structures under seismic effects. His course offerings include structural analysis, structural dynamics and the design of steel structures. Dr. Fell is a registered Professional Engineer in California, an advisor to several student engineering chapters, and a representative to the University Faculty Senate and College Academic Council.

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Exposing pre-college students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities and undergraduate college students to service learning have both been linked to increased interest and participation in STEM careers. This study investigates the use of the Writing Partners program as an intervention to increase college students’ intentions to persist in the major and increase K-12 students’ awareness and understanding of engineering. The Writing Partners (WP) program consists of college students exchanging letters with a local 5th or 6th grade student twice over the course of a semester, culminating in a campus visit for the elementary students. This research centers around the potential impacts of the WP program, addressing the following research questions: How does the WP intervention affect: 1) college students’ intentions to persist in an engineering major? 2) college students’ understanding of engineering professions? 3) elementary school students’ understanding of the engineering professions? 4) elementary school students' intentions to attend college? 5) elementary school students’ intentions to major in engineering? Finally, these potential impacts will be examined for demographic differences, including sex, underrepresented minority students, low-income, and first-generation students. Pre- and post-surveys for the college and elementary students using elements from existing surveys with strong evidence of reliability and validity were used to address intentions to persist in an engineering major and understanding of the engineering profession. The exchanged letters were also coded and used to address understanding of the engineering profession. Programs like this, connecting college students to K-12 students, could be used by other departments and universities to engage diverse populations to pursue engineering majors and careers.

Fogarty, J., & Canney, N. E., & Fell, B. V. (2020, June), Effect of Letter Exchange Program on Student Development, Persistence, and Interest in Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34495

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