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Exploring Gender Differences in Students’ Sustainability Beliefs in Upper-level Engineering Courses

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30490

Download Count

43

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Paper Authors

biography

Marisa Swift Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Marisa Swift is an undergraduate student studying Computer Science at Purdue University. She is doing both qualitative and quantitative research about diversity in the field of engineering.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0741-3356

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. Her research earned her a National Science Foundation CAREER Award focused on characterizing latent diversity, which includes diverse attitudes, mindsets, and approaches to learning, to understand engineering students’ identity development. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Tripp Shealy Virginia Tech

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Tripp Shealy is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.

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Abstract

Despite increased calls for the need for more diverse engineers and significant efforts to “move the needle,” the composition of students, especially women, earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering has not significantly changed over the past three decades. Prior research by Klotz and colleagues (2014) showed that sustainability as a topic in engineering education is a potentially positive way to increase women’s interest in STEM at the transition from high school to college. Additionally, sustainability has increasingly become a more prevalent topic in engineering as the need for global solutions that address the environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability have become more pressing. However, few studies have examined students’ sustainability related career for upper-level engineering students. This time point is a critical one as students are transitioning from college to industry or other careers where they may be positioned to solve some of these pressing problems. In this work, we answer the question, “What differences exist between men and women’s attitudes about sustainability in upper-level engineering courses?” in order to better understand how sustainability topics may promote women’s interest in and desire to address these needs in their future careers.

We used pilot data from the CLIMATE survey given to 228 junior and senior civil, environmental, and mechanical engineering students at a large East Coast research institution. This survey included questions about students’ career goals, college experiences, beliefs about engineering, and demographic information. The students surveyed included 62 third-year students, 96 fourth-year students, 29 fifth-year students, and one sixth-year student. In order to compare our results of upper-level students’ attitudes about sustainability, we asked the same questions as the previous study focused on first-year engineering students, “Which of these topics, if any, do you hope to directly address in your career?” The list of topics included energy (supply or demand), climate change, environmental degradation, water supply, terrorism and war, opportunities for future generations, food availability, disease, poverty and distribution of resources, and opportunities for women and/or minorities. As the answer to this question was binary, either “Yes,” or “No,” Pearson’s Chi-squared test with Yates’ continuity correction was performed on each topic for this question, comparing men and women’s answers.

We found that women are significantly more likely to want to address water supply, food availability, and opportunities for woman and/or minorities in their careers than their male peers. Conversely, men were significantly more likely to want to address energy and terrorism and war in their careers than their female peers. Our results begin to help us understand the particular differences that men and women, even far along in their undergraduate engineering careers, may have in their desire to address certain sustainability outcomes in their careers. This work begins to let us understand certain topics and pathways that may support women in engineering as well as provides comparisons to prior work on early career undergraduate students. Our future work will include looking at particular student experiences in and out of the classroom to understand how these sustainability outcome expectations develop.

Swift, M., & Godwin, A., & Shealy, T. (2018, June), Exploring Gender Differences in Students’ Sustainability Beliefs in Upper-level Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30490

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