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First-year Engineering Students and Their Perceptions of Academic Progress

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Student Perceptions and Perspectives

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Michael Elmore P.E. Binghamton University

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Mike Elmore is director of and a visiting associate professor in the Engineering Design Division in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, NY. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY, and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Binghamton University. He has worked for Lockheed Martin, IBM, General Electric, BAE Systems, and Celestica Corporation. He has 25 years of experience in these companies designing military and commercial power electronic circuits and as a systems engineer for airborne and land vehicle electrical systems. He is a licensed professional engineer. He also received a B.A in philosophy and a M.Ed. from the University of Vermont. Before becoming an engineer he was a high school mathematics teacher.

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Peter J. Partell Binghamton University

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Peter J. Partell is an alumnus of Binghamton University and began his career as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Administration in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2008 after serving as Director of Institutional Research and Planning for the university. Partell received his doctoral degree in Political Science from Binghamton University in May 1999 and his bachelor's degree from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo.
In his role as Associate Dean, Partell is responsible for the Watson School's academic programs and policies, academic support programs, curricular planning, accreditation, space planning, and enrollment planning and management. Some of his accomplishments as Associate Dean include spearheading the graduate enrollment growth strategy that resulted in an increase in graduate enrollment of 400 students over a 4-year period, managed a $4 million teaching and graduate assistant budget which lead to a significant increase in the number of teaching assistants, led a cross-school committee to revamp mathematics education for engineering and computer science students, and served as co-chair of the University's Strategic "Road Map" Committee focused on "Student Success." He currently serves on the "Road Map" Steering Committee.
As Director of Institutional Research and Planning, Partell advised administrators on the efficient use of resources and provided contextual information to guide strategic planning. His office coordinated research studies and reporting pertaining to progress on strategic plan, enrollment and revenue forecasting, faculty workload and instructional costs, student satisfaction, retention and graduation, admissions, space utilization, and staffing.
Dr. Partell serves on many school-based and university-wide committees whose missions focus on items ranging from communications to accreditation to strategic planning.

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Meghan Crist Binghamton University

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Meghan graduated from Binghamton University in 2010 with a BS in electrical engineering and went to work for BAE Systems in Endicott, NY. As a participant in their Engineering Leadership Development Program, she earned her master's degree in systems engineering from the Watson School in 2013, developed a strong technical background, pursued extensive leadership training and experienced recruiting for entry level engineering positions. As an engineer, her primary roles were systems testing of flight and actuator controls on multiple commercial and defense programs. In June of 2018, Meghan changed career focus and became an undergraduate Academic Advisor in the Watson School at Binghamton University. Meghan is an open book, passionate about STEM and is more than willing to share her industry insight with students. She also works closely with the Financial Aid Services Office and is a resource for students who have questions related to their aid. In addition to her role as an Academic Advisor she is also a FYE instructor, the advisor for SWE and involved with the Binghamton Girls Who Code chapter.

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First-Year Engineering Students and Their Perceptions of Academic Progress is a Work In Progress (WIP) paper. First year engineering students are often under extreme amounts of stress. In their first semester, they are making the transition from high school to a college or a university where the rigor of the coursework is above and beyond what they have experienced in the past. Typically, first year engineering students are expected to be calculus ready and take a calculus course in their first semester. They also take a laboratory science course - either Chemistry or Physics - but sometimes both. In addition to these two courses, students usually take an introductory engineering course and round out their studies with a liberal arts course if the college or university has a general education requirement. Along with this difficult field of study and rigorous course load, they are adjusting in general to life at a new school and new independence: being away from home for the first time, setting their own schedule, making new friends, navigating campus and finding the resources available, and getting involved with extracurricular activities, etc. The question that presents itself is “How well are these students monitoring their academic progress in the face of all of these new and somewhat unique challenges?” Halfway through their first semester, the first-year engineering students at *university* are surveyed. They are asked twenty-four multiple choice questions and one short answer question. These questions are designed to understand how well students are adjusting to university life. For example, are they familiar with and taking advantage of the academic services and resources offered to students? How do they think they are doing in some of their courses, especially mathematics and science? In this study, the final grades earned by the first-year engineering students in their science courses are compared with the grades they reported in the mid-semester survey. The results of this correlation are compared to the reported degree to which students took advantage of the various campus services designed to help them adjust to university life and the increased difficulty of their coursework and how much time per week they spend studying. Is their perceived academic performance accurate? Are they utilizing university academic services in response to their perceived academic performance? One unexpected result of the study indicates that students who took the survey had statistically higher science grades and overall grade point average (GPA) than students who did not take the survey.

Elmore, M., & Partell, P. J., & Crist, M. (2020, June), First-year Engineering Students and Their Perceptions of Academic Progress Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34677

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