Asee peer logo

How Students’ Informal Experiences Shape their Views of Engineering and Affect their Plans for Professional Persistence

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

WIED: Strategies Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.675.1 - 24.675.31



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kerry Meyers Youngstown State University

visit author page

Dr. Kerry Meyers is in her second year as the director of the STEM College’s first-year engineering program at Youngstown State University. Her career is focused on the development of common, project-based, first-year engineering experiences, beginning at the University of Notre Dame, where she was also the director of the first-year engineering program from 2005-2012. Her research interests further relate to engineering educational issues in the early stages of student development and progress. Her core engineering educational background is in mechanical engineering and doctoral work in engineering education, both from Purdue University.

visit author page

author page

Leo H. McWilliams University of Notre Dame


Catherine F. Pieronek University of Notre Dame

visit author page

Catherine F. Pieronek is the associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering and a J.D. from Notre Dame, and an M.S. in eerospace engineering from UCLA. Her research focuses primarily on the reasons that affect the persistence of women in engineering, as well as on the application of Title IX to collegiate STEM programs.

visit author page

Download Paper |


How Students’ Informal Experiences Shape their Views of Engineering and Affect their Plans for Professional PersistenceAbstractIt is believed that increased student engagement leads to higher persistence. The current study was originallyfocused on one measure of student engagement – student involvement in organizations within engineering, oncampus, and in the community; however, it evolved into a study of the effect of a broader range of informalexperiences on student perceptions of engineering and their plans for professional persistence. A mixed method,cross-sectional study of engineering students was conducted during the 2011-2012 school year. The study involvedan on-line survey completed by 240 engineering students regarding their extracurricular involvements withinengineering and across the university as a whole. Follow-up interviews informed the results of the large scalesurvey to further probe the factors that encouraged persistence in engineering and post-graduation plans. Womenand men, and white and non-white respondents, reported similar experiences in terms of when/if they consideredleaving engineering and the sources of encouragement and discouragement for persisting in engineering. Studentswho indicated an intrinsic interest in engineering were less likely to indicate that they had ever considered leavingengineering. The experiences of male, female, white and non-white engineering students are collectively moresimilar than different. But the individual experiences and extracurricular involvements contribute to an engineeringstudent’s development and are shaped by the culture of the academic institution.Overall, the percentage difference of male, female, white, and non-white students who considered leavingengineering was not statistically significant. The peak time frame for consideration was second semester of the firstyear and first semester of sophomore year. This indicates that all engineering students grapple with uncertaintiesrelated to pursuing engineering at similar points in their educational paths. A student’s self-reported “interest inengineering” was statistically significant to consideration of leaving engineering (for both male and femalestudents). Male students reported a lower rate of involvement than female students in all types of engineeringorganizations. White students reported lower levels of involvement than non-white students in engineering and off-campus community organizations, but higher levels of involvement in campus organizations. The same factorspredictive of engineering involvements; grade level, female and plans to work in engineering related field post-graduation were also predictive of engineering leadership. 1  Students planning to work in an engineering related field after graduation were less likely to be involved withcommunity organizations (conversely, those who considered leaving engineering were more likely to be involved inthe community).   2  

Meyers, K., & McWilliams, L. H., & Pieronek, C. F. (2014, June), How Students’ Informal Experiences Shape their Views of Engineering and Affect their Plans for Professional Persistence Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20566

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: © 2014 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