Asee peer logo

First Generation Students Identification with and Feelings of Belongingness in Engineering

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Cultures and Identity

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Hank Boone University of Nevada, Reno

visit author page

Hank Boone is a Graduate Research Assistant and Masters Student at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on First Generation engineering college students' engineering identity, belongingness, and how they perceive their college experience.He is also on a National Science Foundation project looking at non-normative engineering students and how they may have differing paths to success. His education includes a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Nevada, Reno.

visit author page


Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This research paper investigates how engineering students overcome difficulties in engineering through development of an engineering identity, belongingness and social capital with a focus on first generation students (FGS). FGS research often draws comparisons to continuing generation students (CGS) and depicts FGS as weaker students and having difficulty reaching graduation. Difficulties include limited study skills, difficulty meeting admission requirements, personal responsibility of tuition, need for employment, and familial relationships. Research demonstrates FGS “struggle”, but little literature examines FGS success persisting to degree attainment. Social capital was chosen as it is a prevalent factor of FGS success while identity and belongingness may relate to students’ levels of social capital. FGS is defined as an individual whose parents have not attained a four year bachelor’s degree. Upper division students were selected as these students have persisted past traditional engineering barriers and may have developed identity and feelings of belongingness. A required communications class for engineers at a western land grant institution was surveyed using 106 Likert-type, matrix, and modified dichotomous items to understand the student’s social capital, experience, identity, and belongingness (n=202, 96% response rate). Analysis showed that being a FGS predicted higher belongingness to engineering major and class. It was also found that FGS had similar engineering identity, motivations toward engineering, experiences in engineering, and social capital provided by their social networks when compared to CGS students. FGS had a more positive opinion on experiences tied to the engineering classroom because they thought their professors gave them encouragement to think creatively, did not go through material too fast, and were happy with their class size when compared to CGS students. FGS did not have as many resources provided by their family/guardian but this could contribute to their differing views of their engineering experience.

Boone, H., & Kirn, A. (2016, June), First Generation Students Identification with and Feelings of Belongingness in Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26903

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: © 2016 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