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Extending Research Into Practice: Results From The Project To Assess Climate In Engineering (Pace)

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Retaining Women Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.568.1 - 15.568.12



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Paper Authors

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Susan Metz Stevens Institute of Technology


Suzanne Brainard University of Washington

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Suzanne G. Brainard, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Center for Workforce Development (CWD) at the University of Washington. She is an
Affiliate Professor in Human-Centered Design & Engineering in the College of Engineering and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of
Women Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington. Suzanne’s research has focused on issues of recruitment,
retention and advancement of women of all ethnicities in engineering, science and the workforce.

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Elizabeth Litzler University of Washington

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Elizabeth Litzler is the Director for Research at the University of Washington (UW) Center for Workforce Development (CWD) and a Ph.D.
candidate in Sociology at the UW. Her research interests include the educational climate for undergraduate and graduate students, gender
stratification in education and the workforce, and gender and families. Liz is the research manager for the Sloan-funded Project to Assess
Climate in Engineering (PACE), the lead of the external evaluation for the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) as
well as UW's NSF ADVANCE program. She is a past President of the UW Sociology Graduate Student Association, a member of ASA, ASEE, and WEPAN.

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Extending Research into Practice: Results from the Project to Assess Climate in Engineering (PACE)


The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded a grant to the Center for Workforce Development at the University of Washington for a multi-site research project intended to identify issues that affect persistence among engineering undergraduates while paying specific attention to the intersection of race, gender and academic experience. The Project to Assess Climate in Engineering (PACE) had three main data collection components: an online student survey for undergraduates in engineering; interviews with current undergraduate engineering students; and interviews with undergraduate students who left engineering for another major at their university. All 22 PACE schools received a final report that included an overview of methodology, discussion of statistically significant findings and general trends, interview results, recommendations and a detailed analysis of responses to each survey question disaggregated by gender and by race/ethnicity. Each school was also provided with aggregated comparison data from three schools of their choice for anonymized benchmarking.

In the final report to each institution, a set of recommendations was made based on quantitative and qualitative data from the survey and interviews. This paper discusses the prevalence of specific recommendations that appeared across many institutions. The recommendations generated by the PACE research team illustrate some of the critical issues that PACE schools and many other engineering schools need to address to improve the undergraduate experience in engineering for students of all demographic groups.

Introduction Engineering is critical to the national competitiveness and productivity of the United States. Unfortunately, in spite of our country’s urgent needs and challenges in areas such as security, energy, transportation and communications, students’ interest in engineering has steadily declined since 19951. While this decreased interest has manifested itself in a variety of ways, of particular importance is the difficulty undergraduate engineering programs face in retaining those students who are already enrolled. According to the Engineering Workforce Commission, there were 100,411 first year engineering students in 2005.2 By 2006, the number of second year engineering students had dropped to 78,418 – a decline of 22 percent – and a similar decline was found between 2004 and 2005.3 Retention issues affect all engineering students though retention patterns differ considerably between engineering schools. Using a national data set, Adelman found the rate of attrition for female engineering students was nearly 50 percent whereas for men it was 25 percent, despite the fact that women earned higher grades.4 An argument can be made that women should be retained at a considerably higher rate than men because the decision for women to study engineering is less casual given that they remain a non-traditional group in the field. The engineering culture and climate in which women experience isolation, decreased self-confidence and sexism continues to deter women’s progress and retention. 5,6, 7

Metz, S., & Brainard, S., & Litzler, E. (2010, June), Extending Research Into Practice: Results From The Project To Assess Climate In Engineering (Pace) Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16083

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