Asee peer logo

Exploring the Evolution of Engineering Students’ Feelings of Inclusion in Their College and the Broader Scientific Community

Download Paper |

Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37151

Download Count

12

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Melissa Lynn Morris University of Nevada - Las Vegas

visit author page

Melissa Morris is currently an Assistant Professor in Residence in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She previously served as a Teaching Associate Professor for the Freshman Engineering Program, in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University (WVU). She graduated Summa cum Laude with a BSME in 2006, earned a MSME in 2008, and completed her doctorate in mechanical engineering in 2011, all from WVU. At WVU, she has previously served as the Undergraduate and Outreach Advisor for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department and the Assistant Director of the Center for Building Energy Efficiency. She has previously taught courses such as Thermodynamics, Thermal Fluids Laboratory, and Guided Missiles Systems, as well as serving as a Senior Design Project Advisor for Mechanical Engineering Students. Her research interests include energy and thermodynamic related topics. Since 2007 she has been actively involved in recruiting and outreach for the Statler College, as part of this involvement Dr. Morris frequently makes presentations to groups of K-12 students.

Dr. Morris was selected as a the ASEE North Central Section Outstanding Teacher in 2018.

visit author page

biography

Joseph Dygert West Virginia University

visit author page

Ph.D student in aerospace engineering at West Virginia University

visit author page

biography

Robin A.M Hensel West Virginia University

visit author page

Robin A. M. Hensel, Ed.D., is the Assistant Dean for Freshman Experience in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University. While her doctorate is in Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on higher education teaching of STEM fields, she also holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in Mathematics. Dr. Hensel has over seven years of experience working in engineering teams and in project management and administration as a Mathematician and Computer Systems Analyst for the U. S. Department of Energy as well as more than 25 years of experience teaching mathematics, statistics, computer science, and first-year engineering courses in higher education institutions. Currently, she leads a team of faculty who are dedicated to providing first year engineering students with a high-quality, challenging, and engaging educational experience with the necessary advising, mentoring, and academic support to facilitate their transition to university life and to prepare them for success in their engineering discipline majors and future careers.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Exploring the Evolution of Engineering Students’ Feelings of Inclusion in Their College and the Broader Scientific Community.

This complete research paper discusses how students’ feelings of inclusion change throughout their undergraduate career. Student responses acquired through focus groups and one-on-one interviews were examined to determine how included the students felt in their engineering college and also the broader scientific community.

A small group of non-calculus ready engineering students enrolled in a large land grant institution in the Mid-Atlantic region consented to participate in the study. The student cohort participated in an NSF S-STEM funded program aimed at fostering a sense of inclusion in engineering by implementing a curriculum focused on cohort formation, career exploration, and professional development. The AcES, consisting of a weeklong pre-fall bridge experience, two common courses, and a variety of co-curricular activities, has been operating for eight years. Students who receive S-STEM funded scholarships participate in three focus groups and two one-on-one interviews each semester throughout their undergraduate studies.

Student responses from the one-on-one interviews and focus groups conducted from 2017-2020 were examined with qualitative coding methods. Questions examined in this work include: 1) Did the engineering and history course help make you feel like you belong in engineering at WVU and that you are included in engineering at WVU?, 2) Do you feel part of the group when working on projects in your engineering courses?, 3) Do you consider yourself a member of the scientific and engineering community here at WVU? Why or why not, and 4) Do you consider yourself a member of the broader scientific and engineering community?

During the exploratory coding phase three codes were established to represent the degree of inclusion felt by students: Edge of Inclusion, Slight Inclusion, and Feelings of Inclusion. Edge of Inclusion was characterized by student responses such as “almost there but not totally”, “just starting to be”, and “a little, I guess”, while student responses such as “yes, but only a little” and “in some classes or situations” were recognized as Slight Inclusion. Examples of student responses such as “yes, I do feel part of it”, “absolutely, since I’ve…”, and “I would consider myself part of . . .” were classified with the code Feelings of Inclusion.

Since the sample size was limited by scholarship funding, statistically significant results weren’t obtainable, but clear themes emerged that can be used to influence engineering curricula and serve as justification for an expanded study. Participating in an internship emerged as a major contributor to students feeling included in the broader scientific community. Interestingly, a decrease in the average degree of inclusion occurred after the students’ first semester, prior to increasing in later semesters. It is hypothesized that the emphasis on cohort formation, career exploration, and planned co-curricular activities during the first semester in the AcES program bolstered the initial feelings of inclusion.

A student’s feeling of inclusion is known to be a contributing factor in retention. The findings of this research indicate that internships should not only be strongly encouraged, but university resources should be invested in helping students be prepared for, apply to, and obtain internships. The researchers suggest the study be expanded beyond the AcES program to examine a broader sample and greater number of students.

Morris, M. L., & Dygert, J., & Hensel, R. A. (2021, July), Exploring the Evolution of Engineering Students’ Feelings of Inclusion in Their College and the Broader Scientific Community Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37151

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015