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Engineering Transfer Students' Views on Orientation and Advising

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Two-Year College Division Transfer Topics Part I

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.524.1 - 23.524.15



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Paper Authors


Catherine Mobley Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Clemson University

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Dr. Mobley is a Professor of Sociology at Clemson University. In recent years, her research has focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, sustainability, environmental sociology, and policy and advocacy. Her focus is on identifying the human factors (cultural, social, economic and political) that influence environmental and educational policies. She has more than 15 years experience in developing surveys (traditional and web-based), conducting in-depth interviews, and moderating focus groups. In 2004, Dr. Mobley joined the NSF-funded MIDFIELD interdisciplinary research team which is examining the educational pathways of engineering students at eleven universities. She is currently serving as Co-PI and is co-leading the qualitative component of a project on transfer students in engineering.

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Catherine E. Brawner Research Triangle Educational Consultants

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Catherine E. Brawner is President of Research Triangle Educational Consultants. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis from NC State University in 1996. She also has an MBA from Indiana University (Bloomington) and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. She specializes in evaluation and research in engineering education, computer science education, teacher education, and technology education. Dr. Brawner is a founding member and former treasurer of Research Triangle Park Evaluators, an American Evaluation Association affiliate organization and is a member of the American Educational Research Association and American Evaluation Association, in addition to ASEE. Dr. Brawner is also an Extension Services Consultant for the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) and, in that role, advises computer science departments on diversifying their undergraduate student population. She currently serves as the principal evaluator for the Teachers Attracting Girls to Computer Science project which aims to increase and diversify the student population studying computer science in high school. Dr. Brawner previously served as principal evaluator of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Coalition. She remains an active researcher with MIDFIELD, studying gender issues, transfers, and matriculation models in engineering.

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“I Knew What to Do”: The Role of Transfer Student Capital in Improving the Transfer Process for Engineering InstitutionsBackground: Transfers comprise a significant portion of engineering students, yet few studieshighlight the unique challenges and opportunities they face in negotiating the transfer processand transitioning to the new culture at the receiving institution. Research on student retentionand success often focuses on either non-transfer students or non-engineering students. Ourqualitative study helps to fill these gaps in the literature on engineering student pathways.Several theories help explain transfer student outcomes. “Transfer shock” (Hills, 1965) refers tothe drop in GPA experienced by transfer students within their first year after moving to a newinstitution. While useful for explaining a specific outcome (GPA), Laanan at al’s (2010) conceptof “transfer student capital” (TSC) highlights the resources that students enact when transferringfrom one institution to another. TSC refers to how students obtain and use knowledge andresources during the transfer process. The four components of TSC are: academic counseling,perceptions of the transfer process, experiences with faculty, and learning/study skills.Our Study: We explore how students use dimensions of TSC during the transfer process. Wepresent initial qualitative findings from a mixed-method study of the pathways, persistence, andoutcomes of transfer students in engineering from schools in the Multiple Institution Database forInvestigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) partnership. We interviewedengineering transfer students to explore the factors that facilitated or impeded their success attheir new institutions. We report on the results from 48 interviews conducted at three institutions.Results: Most students recognized that the transfer process involved several discrete decisionsand required access to information often not readily accessible. Most students indicated they hadlittle academic counseling at the sending institution and only a few reported interacting withfaculty outside the classroom at the receiving institution. Learning/study skills were mentioned byjust a few students as resources that helped with the transition process. Access, or lack of access,to information was important for this group of students. For example, many benefitted frominformation posted on the university website, such as curriculum maps. Nearly all respondentsdescribed the application and admissions processes as smooth. Others said the credit evaluationand course selection processes were difficult to navigate; they had to be persistent and motivatedto find relevant information. Those who visited the campus and talked to staff reported morepositive experiences.Significance: Study results provide evidence regarding the factors associated with retention andbaccalaureate degree attainment for engineering transfer students. Our findings will be useful toindividuals interested in designing programs to improve the transfer process and betterunderstand the factors related to student success.ReferencesHills, J.R. (1965). “Transfer Shock: The Academic Performance of the Junior CollegeTransfer,” Journal of Experimental Education, 33(2), 201-215.Laanan, F.S., Starobin, S.S., & Eggleston, L.E. (2010). “Adjustment of Community CollegeTransfer Students at a Four-Year University: Role and Relevance of Transfer Student Capital forStudent Retention.” Journal of College Student Retention 12(2), 175-209.

Mobley, C., & Brawner, C. E. (2013, June), Engineering Transfer Students' Views on Orientation and Advising Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19538

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