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Examination of Student Choice to Remain in Engineering

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 9: Persistence and Retention

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors

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Katherine Tanner Ohio State University


Krista M. Kecskemety Ohio State University

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Krista Kecskemety is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. Krista received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University in 2006 and received her M.S. from Ohio State in 2007. In 2012, Krista completed her Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State. Her engineering education research interests include investigating first-year engineering student experiences, faculty experiences, and the connection between the two.

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Rachel Louis Kajfez Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity of undergraduate and graduate students, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching.

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This research paper investigates motivations and decision-making of undergraduate engineering students. Building on prior research exploring major selection across many disciplines and demographic groups, this work examines response data from students in engineering majors across four years of undergraduate study. All these students began their undergraduate programs as “pre-majors” in engineering. At this large Midwestern public university, engineers are not fully admitted to their majors until prerequisite coursework is complete. The coursework required for admittance can vary from discipline to discipline. This variation as well as variation among application deadlines and GPA cutoffs across discipline can play a role in whether a student pursues the major they entered university intending to pursue. At the time of the final survey, these students were in their fourth year of study. These students throughout the four years chose a variety of paths; some stayed in the same concentration of engineering from pre-major to graduation, and some left engineering altogether. This collection of data allows a unique comparison between individuals who remain in engineering throughout college, and individuals who begin their studies intending to pursue engineering, but at some point choose to leave engineering altogether. The paper primarily focuses on survey response data from this group of students collected during their fourth year. Our analysis examines comparisons between responses among students in their first year with whether those students eventually leave engineering. We use this information to compare students who stayed in engineering against those who left using quantitative data on how certain and interested they initially were in engineering as well as qualitative responses describing why they switched disciplines or left engineering.

Tanner, K., & Kecskemety, K. M., & Kajfez, R. L. (2019, June), Examination of Student Choice to Remain in Engineering Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32773

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