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Engineering Students’ Self-Concept Differentiation: Investigation of Identity, Personality, and Authenticity with Implications for Program Retention

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session - Understanding and Changing Engineering Culture

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Kylie Denise Stoup James Madison University

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Kylie Stoup is a senior honors engineering student at James Madison University. Ms. Kylie Stoup graduates with a BS in Engineering in May 2016. She is in the second year of her 2-year-long engineering capstone project so far, involving the design and implementation of a greenway system in Harrisonburg. Her career interests include transportation infrastructure and city planning with a focus in social equity, as well as psychology in engineering education. She plans to enter the workforce following graduation to pursue engineering planning.

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Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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Olga Pierrakos is a Founding Faculty and Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. She is currently a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education. Her expertise and interests focus on diversity and inclusion, engineer identity, PBL, innovative learning-centered pedagogies, assessment of student learning, engineering design, capstone design, etc. She also conducts research in cardiovascular fluid mechanics and sustainable energy technologies. She holds a BS and MS in Engineering Mechanics and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Despite efforts to broaden the participation of students pursuing and persisting in engineering, recruitment and retention problems still continue in engineering. One area of focus in recent years is exploring engineering students’ identity. In studying identity, though, it is important to recognize that engineering students have her/his own personality too (i.e. personal identity). In this study, students’ engineering identity and personality authenticity are explored in relation to female students’ persistence in engineering, with the grounding hypothesis being that female students who display a similar “authentic” personality in social contexts and engineering contexts are more likely to persist in engineering. The research questions guiding this effort are: (1) What personality profiles are freshmen and senior engineering students displaying in engineering environments? (2) What variations in personality and authenticity are present among engineering students in engineering and non-engineering environments? (3) How do engineering students varying in personality and authenticity among different environments respond to persistence in engineering?

In this exploratory study, we investigate the cross-group differences (male vs female) and within-group differences to better understand how female engineering students might differ amongst themselves. Our research team developed a survey that includes items from the Big Five Personality model, Engineering Identity Survey (EIS), personality authenticity items, and a few open-ended questions. Although the Big Five model does not fully represent the variance in personalities and identity that occurs in different environments, comparing the variance between students’ personality and identity in engineering and non-engineering environments help explain a holistic sense of oneself. Descriptive statistics will be used to present engineering students’ personality profiles, engineering identity salience, personality authenticity, and cross-role variance. This work is another step to understanding students’ identity in engineering beyond gender differences. Understanding engineering student identity will help forward strategies and research towards increasing retention in engineering programs.

Stoup, K. D., & Pierrakos, O. (2016, June), Engineering Students’ Self-Concept Differentiation: Investigation of Identity, Personality, and Authenticity with Implications for Program Retention Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26666

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