Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
This research explored the varied health stresses of undergraduate students and the broad spectrum of resilience strategies they applied. Across the country and the world, health of college students is gaining more deserved attention. Mental and physical health shocks and stresses weigh heavily on all college students, but perhaps not any more than those in engineering programs. These majors can be worse due to the pervasive focus on high performance, even if the university offers many services. This work highlights, in their own words, the ways that undergraduate engineering students managed physical trauma in addition to other mental health stresses in their lives. The research was conducted post hoc, using transcripts from longitudinal interviews with 34 undergraduate students (13 male, 21 female). The transcripts were analyzed using emergent thematic coding. Health issues continued to emerge as important, though not an initial goal of this research design. Some students shared how they had a hard time balancing their schooling, employment, and personal life when confronted with some unexpected or additional health issue. For example, one student described her full lifestyle with work, club soccer, civil engineering degree, which was disrupted by a sprained knee. Another student had a history of depression and described how he managed engineering school until he left the university altogether. Most surprisingly, when asked at the very beginning of the interview to give an overview of the previous year, three students described how their traumatic head injury changed their following year dramatically. One even cited her concussion from athletics as one motivating reason out of engineering. The other two finished their engineering degrees. Beyond illuminating the many health stresses, this research also explored the formal and informal support systems (or lack thereof) as described by the students themselves. Some relied on official students services while others went to family and friends. Importantly, the level of care and empathy shown by professors when confronted with a shock to their students’ lives was an important element within the larger resilience strategies. The full paper will share quotes from the students and a deeper discussion of the different ways faculty and staff can be more supportive of students across the timeline of their trauma. This work can more broadly inform efforts to learn more about the health impacts on persistence and quality of life of engineering students.
Rulifson, G., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2020, June), Health Stress and Support System Narratives of Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34722
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