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Exploring How Engineering Internships and Undergraduate Research Experiences Inform and Influence College Students' Career Decisions and Future Plans

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Internship, Co-Op, and Professional Development Programs

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors

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Kayla Powers Stanford University


Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a research scientist in the Designing Education Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. Chen's current research interests include: 1) engineering and entrepreneurship education; 2) the pedagogy of ePortfolios and reflective practice in higher education; and 3) reimagining the traditional academic transcript.

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Krishnaswamy Venkatesh Prasad Ford Motor Company


Shannon Katherine Gilmartin SKG Analysis Orcid 16x16

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Shannon K. Gilmartin, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scholar at the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research and Adjunct Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She is also Managing Director of SKG Analysis, a research consulting firm. Her expertise and interests focus on education and workforce development in engineering and science fields.

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2011 Dr. Sheppard was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Does engagement in high impact practices such as technical internships and undergraduate research influence engineering students’ career decisions and future plans? And how is learning that comes from these high impact practices related to “school learning”? These high impact educational practices have been shown to increase the rates of student engagement and retention in higher education. While access to and participation in these activities is often unsystematic across various institutions, these practices have been shown to benefit college students with diverse backgrounds and learner qualities. This paper establishes a context for understanding the characteristics and attitudes of students who participate in internships and undergraduate research by drawing from analyses of the first administration of the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), a longitudinal study designed to examine engineering students’ career objectives related to creativity and innovation, and the experiences and attitudes that might influence those goals. In addition, using interview data from product development interns at a single engineering firm, we add insights into the specific skills that interns identify as learning in their internship and suggest connections between school-and-work learning. The more general picture of the impact of internship and research experiences (from the EMS), complemented with a “deep dive” into the learning that happens in internship experiences (from the interviews) provides a solid starting point for future exploration of how high impact practices such as internships and research experiences might be better integrated into a student’s educational development.

Powers, K., & Chen, H. L., & Prasad, K. V., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Sheppard, S. (2018, June), Exploring How Engineering Internships and Undergraduate Research Experiences Inform and Influence College Students' Career Decisions and Future Plans Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30491

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