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Exploring Engineering Identity in a Common Introduction to Engineering Course to Improve Retention

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Paying More Attention to Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Michele Yatchmeneff University of Alaska Anchorage

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Michele Yatchmeneff is Unangax (Aleut) who grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle in rural villages along Alaska’s Aleutian chain. She earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2005 and an MS in Engineering Management in 2009 at University of Alaska Anchorage. After earning her BS she began working in Alaska’s construction and engineering industry, specializing in water and sewer projects in remote villages across the state. She also worked as the Deputy Director of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). Professor Yatchmeneff earned her PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University in 2015. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her research focuses on motivation and success for Alaska Native pre-college students.

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Matthew Calhoun University of Alaska Anchorage Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Matthew Calhoun is a civil engineering assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Prior to his tenure-track position, he worked as a project engineer in the Alaskan construction industry followed by managing the pre-college component of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). He has earned a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a MS in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a BS in civil engineering from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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This complete research paper describes the efficacy of first-year retention interventions focused on engineering identity that were developed for a common Introduction to Engineering course. This research aims to improve retention rates where presently about half of the engineering undergraduate students exit or drop out. The American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) has indicated that engineering universities should develop retention programs to reduce these numbers. One of the main recommendations is to develop first-year retention programs. At one university, two engineering professors developed first-year retention interventions into the common Introduction to Engineering course they teach. The main interventions employed included refocusing the course on engineering identity. To measure if these interventions were effective, an engineering identity pre and post survey was given to four common Introduction to Engineering courses, which comprised of 169 high school and undergraduate students who completed the courses taught in 2016.

The survey instrument used in this study was largely adopted from Prybutok, Patrick, Borrego, Seepersad, and Kiristis who completed a similar study. This paper discusses the quantitative results from these engineering identity pre and post surveys. Engineering factors that significantly improved from the pre to the post surveys included: performance/competence, design efficacy, recognition by others, and recognition by self. The other engineering factors measured that were found to not have significantly improved included: interest, creativity, caring, and major selection. These interventions improved the students’ engineering identities. Future work should include conducting a paired survey where the participants’ pre and post survey results are connected. Future work should also include analyzing the qualitative data provided in these surveys.

Yatchmeneff, M., & Calhoun, M. (2017, June), Exploring Engineering Identity in a Common Introduction to Engineering Course to Improve Retention Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28327

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