June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.816.1 - 26.816.18
General Engineering Plus: Building Community Into A Flexible Yet Technical College DegreeBelonging to a community is an important part of the undergraduate student experience. Specificto engineering undergraduate programs, communities allow for “opportunities for deeperunderstanding and integration of the material they are learning, and more interaction with oneanother and their teachers as fellow participants in the learning enterprise .” Thesecommunities can be organized in diverse ways — including along common courses, commoncareer interests, and extracurricular interests — and help to increase group identity, programcohesiveness, and program uniqueness . Several studies also link learning communities tobeneficial educational outcomes, including increased retention rates of first-year students, higherfirst-year GPAs, and lower incidence of academic probation .A query of engineering undergraduate students at a large public university inquired as to theirdegree options and career plans. Not surprisingly, there exists a strong student desire forflexibility within their engineering undergraduate degree program to incorporate other interestsinternal and external to engineering. Support for a multidisciplinary general engineering degreeis strong among students at this university, including a large percentage of female and minoritystudent populations. With the intent to broaden participation of students who stay the course inengineering degrees, this university piloted a new, flexible undergraduate engineering degreeprogram presented in this study.This general engineering program facilitates significant curricular choice and customizability forstudents, allowing for a deep-dive into both an engineering discipline and concurrent studies in acomplementary subject. Comprehensive degree requirements include a design-based engineeringcore, choice of a “traditional” engineering emphasis — including mechanical, aerospace, civil,environmental, architectural, or electrical engineering — coupled with a customizableconcentration, such as secondary teacher licensure, business, or foreign language. Additionally,this degree includes hands-on design experiences throughout, nurturing a solid foundation ofvaluable professional skills such as teamwork and innovation for its students.This research aims to discover if and how a learning community and group identity can beformed between engineering students with diverse career interests enrolled in a new, design-based multidisciplinary engineering degree program at a large public university. Given thediverse student experiences inherent in this degree program built around extensive,multidisciplinary curricular flexibility, the paper addresses the questions, “Is it possible to buildcommunity and support group identity formation between students who have little-to-nodesignated time together?” and “How can a sense of interconnectedness and community becreated within a group that is intentionally diverse?”Initial data indicates that students in this new degree program are still finding each other andforming their community. Using mixed-methods analysis informed by current education research— including surveys and small focus groups — we explore the ways in which community isnurtured and hindered amongst the first-year and returning students enrolled in the program. Theanalysis also considers interest in types of community activities revealed in several small focusgroups. Finally, suggestions are made on when to initiate community development and howengineering communities can be optimized for students within and between departments.References  Watford, B. A., & Artis, S. (2004). “Hypatia: A Residential Program for Freshman Women in Engineering,” Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, UT.  Lockwood, P. R., & Hunt, E. M. (2013). “Engineering Learning Communities,” Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA.
Zarske, M. S., & Cunitz, J. L., & Forbes, M. H., & Sullivan, J. F. (2015, June), General Engineering Plus: Creating Community in a Flexible yet Technical Engineering Degree Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24153
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