June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Women in Engineering
15.568.1 - 15.568.12
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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