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Engineering Students' Perceptions of Their Role in the University Organization

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Business and Professional Literacy Within Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Benjamin Goldschneider Virginia Polytechnic Institute

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Benjamin Goldschneider is a PhD student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. His research interests include engineering identity development, socialization, student motivation, and student competencies.

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Nicole P. Pitterson Virginia Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Nicole is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Prior to joining VT, Dr. Pitterson was a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She holds a PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University and other degrees in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Illinois University and a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Her research interest is eliciting conceptual understanding of AC circuit concepts using active learning strategies.

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From a student’s perspective, academic institutions are impossibly complicated organizations. Specifically, every department, office, and club has its own policies, procedure, and structure. This can create difficulties for students when they attempt to figure out where to go for information or help when they need it. This organizational complexity also makes it challenging for students to determine how they fit into the overall structure of the institution. For many students, their own position in the university is not a day-to-day thought, though its influence may affect multiple aspects of their everyday lives. As such, students may struggle to conceptualize what the university offers to them, and in turn, what their responsibility to the university is. This relationship is a crucial aspect of university improvement as it provides faculty and staff with information about the wants and needs of students while simultaneously giving the students a voice in the improving their institutions. In order to understand what kinds of organizational changes are needed at the institutional level to better incorporate students both into their university and the organizational change process, students’ perceptions of their own position and role must be known and understood. Furthermore, it is worth understanding how this knowledge varies between students at different stages of their undergraduate studies, as more time at the university may either serve to clarify or further confuse students’ views of their place at their university. This knowledge holds value for students, faculty, and administration alike, as all have a stake in the incremental development of the university over time. The purpose of this qualitative investigation is to investigate how first- and second-year engineering students at a large public Mid-Atlantic university describe their position and role within their university and program. Data for this study are drawn from semi-structured interviews conducted with ten students in Chemical Engineering. This selection of students from each of the first two years of their undergraduate careers provides a means for comparing how students’ views vary as they gather more experience at the university. The study will be guided by Bolman and Deal’s structural orientation for organizational management of change. Bettering the understanding of students’ understanding can help inform the design or improvement of programs and interventions meant to acquaint students with their academic surroundings and integrate them into the institution more fully. Student comfort in academic environments is an important factor in student satisfaction and retention, and hence holds potentially substantial benefits for the STEM disciplines, where retention continues to struggle. In the long term, this information may even be the basis for gradual adjustments to institutional structure in pursuit of a more easily navigable and understandable organization for students and faculty alike.

Goldschneider, B., & Pitterson, N. P. (2021, July), Engineering Students' Perceptions of Their Role in the University Organization Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37074

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