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Enhancements To A Retention Program For Women Engineering Technology Students By The Addition Of A Social Support Network And Community Building Activities

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.566.1 - 14.566.13



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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Dell Rochester Institute of Technology

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Elizabeth Dell is an Assistant Professor of Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the Program Chair for Undeclared Engineering Technology. Dell received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University and has an MS in Macromolecular Science & Engineering from the University of Michigan. She leads the mentoring efforts for the Women in Technology program.

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Jeanne Christman Rochester Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Jeanne Christman is an Assistant Professor in the department of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She is currently the Program Chair for the Computer Engineering Technology Program. Christman received her B. S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Clarkson University and her M. S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. Christman is the coordinator for the Engineering Girl Scout Badge workshop at RIT. She also tracks retention data for the female students in the Engineering Technology departments.

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Teresa Wolcott Rochester Institute of Technology

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Teresa Wolcott has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. She is an adjunct instructor for surveying and lead faculty for WIT in the Civil Engineering Technology program at RIT. Currently, she is pursuing her Master of Science degree in Professional Studies with concentrations in Geographical Information Systems and Project Management. Wolcott’s involvement in the Women in Technology program at RIT includes monitoring retention data and supporting programming efforts.

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Maureen Valentine Rochester Institute of Technology

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MAUREEN S. VALENTINE is the Associate Dean and Miller professor for the College of Applied Science and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Valentine received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tufts University and her master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Under the Miller Endowed Professorship, Valentine is the director of RIT’s Women in Technology program.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Enhancements to a Retention Program for Women Engineering Technology Students by the Addition of a Social Support Network and Community Building Activities Abstract

This paper describes a low-cost, successful program to help retain female Engineering Technology students with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of female graduates of our Engineering Technology programs. This program was started in 2003. The programming initially focused on academic support in the form of tutoring, formation of study groups and reimbursement for academic laboratory kits. This program did improve retention, but a survey of our students found that they also desired social support and opportunities to serve the community. Since the addition of programming involving social support and community building, retention of women students in the Engineering Technology programs has improved by an average of 6% per year. In addition to improved retention, the number of students receiving a D, F or Withdrawing from the core first- and second-year courses in these programs has dropped by over 75%.


Unless the U.S. can attract more students to science and technical fields, there will be a shortage of qualified workers for our increasingly technology-oriented society. Women make up 46% of the available workforce, but only 9% of engineers are women.1 Increasing the number of female engineering and engineering technology graduates is one way to increase the number of qualified workers for the future. Although our university is taking actions to increase the number of women enrolled in the freshman engineering technology (ET) programs, there is a need to improve the rate of retention in these programs.

A Woman in Technology (WIT) program was started in 2003 for first- and second-year female students in the Engineering Technology disciplines. The engineering technology programs include Civil, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Electrical-Mechanical, Electrical, Computer, Telecommunications and Undeclared Engineering Technology. For the first three years, programming consisted of four supportive activities: 1) study groups facilitated by adjunct faculty, 2) peer tutoring by juniors and seniors, 3) purchase of academic laboratory kits for first and second year students and 4) support for student attendance at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) national conference. Retention of the targeted students was tracked. Most students who left Engineering Technology did so in the first two years. A study completed by the U.S. Department of Education found the first two years to be critical in ensuring degree completion.2 It was found that retention of first-year female ET students improved 18%, from 35% in 2000 to 58% in 2002.3 Even with successful efforts by WIT to improve retention, rates were still not at Institute averages. Overall Institute retention for the same year was 87.5%. The

Dell, E., & Christman, J., & Wolcott, T., & Valentine, M. (2009, June), Enhancements To A Retention Program For Women Engineering Technology Students By The Addition Of A Social Support Network And Community Building Activities Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4880

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015