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How Does Enrollment Management Affect Student Population Diversity in Biomedical Engineering?

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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

Introduction to the Field of Biomedical Engineering - June 25th

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Rachel C. Childers University of Oklahoma Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Childers is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She developed and teaches all of the Junior-level biomedical engineering lab courses (6 different core areas) within the department.

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Handan Acar University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Acar started at the University of Oklahoma, Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering in January 2018. Her main research interest is peptide-based therapeutics, diagnostics, and delivery solutions for cancer treatment and tissue engineering.

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Introduction: With the increased demand for admission to Biomedical Engineering (BME) degrees, many programs apply rigorous enrollment management protocols (EMPs) ensure the academic suitability of candidates and manage student numbers. However some evidence suggests the weed-out tradition selects against students on a full spectrum of talent and academic preparedness [1]. In addition, there is evidence that women and under-represented minorities (URM) are affected negatively by this approach [1]. At the institution, where this study is performed, the admissions department determines who is admitted to the BME program. In effort to manage enrollment, the BME program requires a grade of a B or better in five different math and science courses as a pre-requisite to enroll in a fall semester sophomore year gateway course in the BME major. A crucial question is whether or not this specific EMP may select against women and other URM, similar to the weed-out tradition. The aim of this study is therefore to understand the potential negative effects of this particular EMP on women and URM.

Materials and Methods: Enrollment of students (n=415) who initially declared BME were tracked over two academic years (2018-2019). We paid specific attention to underrepresented minorities (URM) and women. Of those students that subsequently switched from BME to another major, we investigated the degree they switched to.

Results and Discussion: In this study, we observed striking results related with student demographics. Between the freshman year and the sophomore-level gateway course, approximately 48% of students switched major (switchers) or left the university. Most of the switchers left engineering entirely. Switchers were disproportionately female (57%) and disproportionately URM (32% of switchers, compared to 18% of non-switchers). The results of this study will serve as the first step to understand and characterize the demographics of the students in the BME program. Future work will be done to characterize different EMPs at other BME departments and identify best practices and practical solutions to help retain women and URM in BME.

Childers, R. C., & Acar, H. (2020, June), How Does Enrollment Management Affect Student Population Diversity in Biomedical Engineering? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34731

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