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How was your internship? Stories about the engineering internship experience from five female engineering students

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2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


California State University, Los Angeles , California

Publication Date

April 4, 2019

Start Date

April 4, 2019

End Date

April 6, 2019

Conference Session

PSW Section Meeting Papers - Disregard start and end time - for online paper access only

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pacific Southwest Section Meeting Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


Amy Huynh University of California, Irvine

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Amy Huynh is a mechanical and aerospace engineering major at the University of California, Irvine. She is interested in better understanding and supporting the experiences of female engineers in the classroom and in industry. She is involved in senior design projects for the CanSat and Design/Build/Fly competitions.

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Natascha Trellinger Buswell University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16

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Natascha Trellinger Buswell is an assistant professor of teaching in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine. She earned her B.S. in aerospace engineering at Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in engineering education in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is particularly interested in teaching conceptions and methods and graduate level engineering education.

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This paper shares the narratives of five female undergraduate students who have had engineering internship experiences and are currently enrolled in school. The qualitative methodology of narrative analysis was used to create five narratives, which include each student’s reasons for applying for an internship; what their experiences working in industry was like, and how their industry experience has shaped their learning experience back in the classroom.

The narrative stories are guided thematically by examining the female students’ perspectives before, during, and after their internship experience. The undergraduate student experience is often shaped by both classwork and industry experiences. The female perspective is especially important to study because it allows for better understanding of how female students can benefit and learn from internships, and point to ways to help diversify the field of engineering. This paper serves to explore how the differing experiences of classwork and internship influence each other and how female students benefit from being exposed to both.

The research question this study addresses is: How do female engineering students describe their internship and classwork experiences and how these experiences impact each other? This paper uses the methodology of narrative analysis in order to focus on each research participant and their stories. This is meant to emphasize how research participants have ventured through their experiences rather than why they have these experiences. These narratives will serve as role models to other female students who are interested in being exposed to the engineering industry through internships. By hearing stories of peers who have had the same experiences they wish to have, other female students can feel inspired to gain industry experience.

Along with the narrative stories, this paper includes a thematic analysis that relates all of the individual stories as a group. The section of the paper is useful in determining the bigger picture of the research. By examining how all participants feel about their internship and classwork experience, they can reflect on areas they most benefited from and what they wish were different.

This paper will likely interest female undergraduate students who are considering internship experiences while understanding more of what they can gain from them. Industry companies who have internship programs may also find this paper useful to understand how to shape their programs in effective ways for students. Schools may also benefit from this paper by incorporating more applications to typically theoretical classwork. This research and its findings can also provide insight to current female engineering students and their professors. Female students may feel inspired and empowered to apply to an internship. This paper will provide more tools and accessibility about the female internship experience to help diversify the engineering profession.

Huynh, A., & Buswell, N. T. (2019, April), How was your internship? Stories about the engineering internship experience from five female engineering students Paper presented at 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, California State University, Los Angeles , California. 10.18260/1-2--31829

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: © 2019 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