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Engineering as a Career Choice among Rural Appalachian Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Factors Impacting Engineering Career Choices, Including Engaging Families

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.536.1 - 25.536.8



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Paper Authors


Matthew Boynton P.E. Virginia Tech

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Matthew Boynton is a doctoral student in the Engineering Education Department at Virginia Tech. Before entering Virginia Tech, he earned a B.S. and M.S. in civil and environmental engineering, and an Ed.S in instructional leadership from Tennessee Technological University. His engineering work experience includes work within a rural telecommunications service provider and an environmental consulting firm. While working toward his M.S. and Ed.S, Boynton worked with the Extended Education Department at Tennessee Technological University teaching Project Lead the Way engineering courses in rural high schools. Boynton is currently continuing teaching the high school courses to students virtually.

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Marie C Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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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 in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is co-PI on several NSF grants to explore identity and interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering design.

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Engineering as a Career Choice among Rural Appalachian StudentsDiscussions of diversity in engineering often focus on race and gender, but rarely address classor cultural issues. But students in Appalachia and other rural cultures also represent a lostopportunity; they are no less capable and no less valuable to engineering than otherunderrepresented groups. At the same time engineering has the potential to provide a powerfulcareer path in areas of the country that suffer disproportionate economic losses from shifts in theglobal economy. Yet little work to date has been done on recruitment of engineering studentsfrom these marginalized rural cultures. To address this gap, this paper presents review ofliterature on career choice in Appalachian students, identifying potential barriers to engineeringand suggesting possible interventions that may help overcome these barriers. Audiences for thiswork include agencies interested in implementing intervention programs to provide ruralAppalachian students with the necessary tools to perceive engineering as a possible careerchoice. These include, but are not limited to, universities, public school systems, and othereducational institutions invested in the growth of the Appalachian Region.The literature review includes studies of the culture of the Appalachian region, career choicewithin the region, and characteristics of Appalachian youth. The region defined as Appalachiaconsists of 205,000 square miles following the Appalachian Mountains from southern New Yorkto northern Mississippi. This region, although striving to diversify economically, does not enjoythe same economic vitality as the rest of the nation. Given the characteristics of the community,an attempt has been made to understand the factors that contribute to engineering as a careerdecision of Appalachian youth. Research indicates that many Appalachians don’t graduate fromhigh school, perceive many obstacles in attaining post-secondary education, and lack exposure toa full range of career models which limit their learning. In addition, students within Appalachiaoften have parental and community support but lack role-models with exposure to post-secondary careers.To address the potential gaps and barriers identified through these studies, the paper willconclude by drawing on the concept of future possible selves. The Possible Selves frameworkwill be reviewed as a lens to examine ideas of what these students would like to become andwhat they are afraid of becoming in the future. This framework has been used to studypopulations of youth with similar barriers. This paper describes how the framework connectsstudents’ current situations with deficiencies in ability to view engineering as a possible careerchoice.

Boynton, M., & Paretti, M. C. (2012, June), Engineering as a Career Choice among Rural Appalachian Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21294

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