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Helping Freshmen Develop a Personal Identity as an Engineer

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD I: Attacking the Problems of Retention in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.768.1 - 22.768.12



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Paper Authors


Stephen Rippon Arizona State University

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As Assistant Dean for Student Services in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Steve Rippon oversees the Schools’ K-12 outreach and summer programs, undergraduate recruitment, undergraduate retention and engagement initiatives, and the Engineering Career Center. Prior to joining the Schools of Engineering in 2007, Steve was the Executive Director of Student Success and Engagement Programs for ASU’s University College. Among his responsibilities during his 11 years as Executive Director, Steve directed the ASU Summer Bridge Program, the Campus Match Freshman Interest Groups, the University Academic Success Curriculum, Writing Across the Curriculum, and the ASU Service Learning Program. Steve also led a team that earned the President’s Award for Exemplary Service for the “College Knowledge Project”, which partnered with Maricopa County school districts to raise the college-going expectations and readiness of inner-city middle school students.

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James Collofello Arizona State University

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Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
School of Computing Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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Robin R Hammond Arizona State University

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Helping Freshmen Develop a Personal Identity as an EngineerAbstractFreshman retention is a top priority in nearly all engineering schools. Increased retentionoptimizes new-student recruitment dollars, decreases students’ time to graduation, impactsschool rankings, and helps to meet industry’s increasing demand for engineers. Most researchersand experts in the field agree on a number of basic tenants of retention. Topmost are the tenantsof creating community amongst freshmen, bonding freshmen with returning students, creatingopportunities for meaningful interaction between freshmen and faculty both in and outside of theclassroom, helping freshmen understand and internalize the vision and mission of the school, andhelping freshmen develop a personal identify as an Engineer. This paper will focus on the lasttenant.Most engineering programs incorporate career exploration as one of the topics in theIntroduction to Engineering course or a separate course or seminar. This Introduction toEngineering course is typically taught as either a discipline-specific course or a general courseopen to all engineering majors. In both cases the content and delivery of the engineering careerexploration topic is heavily influenced by the faculty member teaching the class. In ourengineering program, there are program-specific Introduction to Engineering courses, anddiscussion of career exploration has been inconsistent.In the Fall of 2010, our engineering school made a commitment to help our freshmen develop apersonal identity with their chosen program or help them explore other engineering programs.We recognized the need to incorporate not only faculty inputs but those of career specialists aswell. Fortunately our school has an engineering career center that is already heavily engaged incareer services for our students with very successful career fairs. With the inputs of our careercenter, we made a strategic decision to engage our freshman students in an Engineering CareerExploration event which introduced our students to industry partners and alumni. TheEngineering Career Center invited our 1100 engineering freshman to attend the careerexploration event to provide context to the entry-level courses that they were enrolled in. In theprocess of describing the typical daily tasks and functions of engineers in particular fields, over70 representatives from 58 companies also discussed with the freshman engineering students theimportance of laying a sound academic foundation during their first year; the value of globalexperiences, community service, research, and internships; and the value-added aspects ofattending graduate school.This paper defines the rationale for conducting the Freshman Career Exploration evening anddiscusses the desired learning outcomes that governed the design of the event. The paper alsodetails how the Engineering Career Center partnered with Introduction to Engineering faculty toprepare the students through pre-event assignments and post-event self assessment to measurehow the industry representatives impacted the students’ outlook on their degree choice and thepath to their careers. The logistics of the event including strategies for recruiting companyparticipation are also discussed. The paper also analyzes the feedback received from students,faculty, and industry partners and how that feedback informed the lessons learned from this pilotevent.

Rippon, S., & Collofello, J., & Hammond, R. R. (2011, June), Helping Freshmen Develop a Personal Identity as an Engineer Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18049

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