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Explaining Choice, Persistence, and Attrition of Black Students in Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering: Award# EEC-1734347 Grantee Poster Session - Year 4

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Catherine Mobley Clemson University

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Catherine Mobley, Professor of Sociology at Clemson University, holds a B.A. in Sociology from Clemson University, Clemson, SC (USA), an M.S. in Policy Analysis from the University of Bath (England), and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Maryland (USA). Her primary areas of research are engineering/STEM education, environmental sustainability, food insecurity, and applied sociology. Much of Dr. Mobley’s research is interdisciplinary as she has collaborated with colleagues from across the university. She has over 30 years of evaluation experience, conducting community-level assessments and evaluating collaborative research efforts. Dr. Mobley has also been involved in extensive applied work in the community, reflecting an explicit integration of her teaching, research and service endeavors.

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Marisa Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Marisa K. Orr is an Associate Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, ”Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Catherine Brawner

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Catherine E. Brawner is president of Research Triangle Educational Consultants in Raleigh, NC. She received her PhD in Educational Research and Policy Analysis from North Carolina State University, her Masters of Business Administration from Indiana University (Bloomington), and a bachelor's degree from Duke University. She specializes in research and evaluation in higher education STEM disciplines with a particular focus on underrepresented groups.

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Rebecca Brent

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Dr. Brent is President of Education Designs, Inc., a consulting firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She has more than 40 years of experience in education and specializes in staff development in engineering and the sciences, qualitative research of gender and race in engineering, and evaluation of educational programs at both precollege and college levels. She has authored or coauthored roughly 130 papers on those topics and a book with Richard Felder, Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide. She earned a B.A. in Music Education from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS, an M.Ed. in elementary education from Mississippi State University, and an Ed.D. in curriculum and teaching from Auburn University in AL. She holds a Certificate in Evaluation Practice from the Evaluators’ Institute at George Washington University. Prior to entering private consulting, she was an Associate Professor of Education at East Carolina University where she won an outstanding teacher award. In 2014, Dr. Brent was named a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Jessica Manning Clemson University

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Jessica Manning is a PhD student in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. She is also a Graduate Administrative Assistant for the Bioengineering Department and assists with advising students throughout their academic careers. Her primary research focuses on women and minorities in multiple engineering disciplines. She earned her BS from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and her MS from Clemson University, Clemson, both in Mechanical Engineering.

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Michael Tidwell Clemson University

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Our transformative mixed-methods project, funded by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers, responds to calls for more cross-institutional qualitative and longitudinal studies of minorities in engineering education. Our project builds on prior work that demonstrated the impacts of gender and race on academic trajectories in Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering (EE, CpE, and ME, respectively) to answer the following questions: 1. Why do Black men and women choose and persist in, or leave, EE, CpE, and ME? 2. What are the academic trajectories of Black men and women in EE, CpE, and ME? 3. In what ways do these pathways vary by gender or institution? 4. What institutional policies and practices promote greater retention of Black engineering students?

In Year 4 of our project, the research team has engaged in deeper analysis of our quantitative data from the Multi-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) database and our qualitative data from 79 in-depth interviews of students in the three study majors at our four study institutions. Expanding on findings presented in prior years, in this paper, we describe emergent results from three papers from Year 4 of our project. We also report on our plans for the upcoming year.

In Year 5, we will continue to explore how various institutional policies and practices shape student decisions and outcomes. This topic will be an integrative theme in all of our papers. To strengthen our discussion on institutional policies and practices, we will draw upon the recently published MIDFIELD policy analyses for our study institutions (

Following further data analysis during Year 4, we have refined our research questions and intend to focus on specific groups, including Black ME students at all MIDFIELD institutions, Black women in PWIs and HBCUs in all majors, switchers in all majors, and Black men in CPE. The full paper describes four of our upcoming papers in more depth.

Mobley, C., & Orr, M., & Brawner, C., & Brent, R., & Manning, J., & Tidwell, M. (2022, August), Explaining Choice, Persistence, and Attrition of Black Students in Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering: Award# EEC-1734347 Grantee Poster Session - Year 4 Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--42007

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