Asee peer logo

Goal-setting as a Means of Improved Mental Health Outcomes for Materials and Mechanical Engineering Students

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division


Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nicole Johnson-Glauch California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Nicole received her B.S. in Engineering Physics at the Colorado School of Mines (’13) and her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (’18). She is currently a lecturer in the Materials Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. In addition to teaching across the curriculum, she studies mental health in engineering students and engages in outreach with underrepresented groups in STEM.

visit author page


Lauren Anne Cooper California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

visit author page

Lauren Cooper earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a research emphasis in Engineering Education from University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her research interests include project-based learning, student motivation, human-centered design, and the role of empathy in engineering teaching and learning.

visit author page


Trevor Scott Harding California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

visit author page

Dr. Trevor S. Harding is Professor and Department Chair of Materials Engineering at California Polytechnic State University where he teaches courses in materials selection and polymers. He has presented his research on engineering ethics to several universities and to the American Bar Association. He serves as Associate Editor of the journals Advances in Engineering Education and International Journal of Service Learning in Engineering. He has served as program chair and division chair for several divisions within ASEE.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The mental well being of undergraduate students is a growing concern among engineering programs. We broadly define mental wellness to be a state in which students are generally happy, healthy, and engaged with multiple aspects of their lives. Students experiencing mental wellness are able to deal with the inevitable stresses of life, use positive coping strategies, and are able to find and maintain a sustainable work-life balance. A recent study at a large public institution in the West found that 38% of engineering students who responded to a mental health survey (n > 700) screened as high risk of serious mental illness. When broken down by major, 25% of the materials engineering student respondents were at high risk, and 28% of the mechanical engineering student respondents were at high risk, compared to 38% for the overall engineering population. These two programs represent the smallest and largest departments, respectively, within the College of Engineering, and have significantly different cultures as a result.

Although there are resources on campus to help students with their mental well being, these resources are largely focused on addressing mental health concerns after problems have occurred for the students. In addition, major-specific courses are where students first learn the norms of their discipline’s culture, which potentially include an unhealthy work-life balance that can lead to increased mental health risks. We are interested in integrating mental well being into the academic function of the university and addressing engineering culture in an impactful way. Doing this is difficult without first knowing what students’ goals around mental well being are. Hence, this research seeks to answer: What types of goals, related to mental well being, are important to materials engineering and mechanical engineering students?

We asked students enrolled in one sophomore-level materials engineering course (n=42) and one sophomore-level mechanical engineering course (n=36) to identify a goal related to improving their mental wellness, and then construct an action plan to help them achieve that goal. Students submitted revised action plans every two weeks after answering prompts to help them reflect on their progress toward achieving their goal. We conducted a thematic analysis of the finalized action plans to determine the most salient mental well being goals. Data analysis and preliminary results will be completed in January 2020.

Johnson-Glauch, N., & Cooper, L. A., & Harding, T. S. (2020, June), Goal-setting as a Means of Improved Mental Health Outcomes for Materials and Mechanical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34710

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: © 2020 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