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Implementation Of An Early Warning System In Engineering: A Partnership With Academic Advisors And Instructors Across The Campus

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Mentoring First Year Students

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.675.1 - 15.675.8

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Paper Authors

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Mary Goodwin Iowa State University

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Amy Brandau Iowa State University

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Deb DeWall Iowa State University

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Bing Du Iowa State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Implementation of an Early Warning System in Engineering: A Partnership with Academic Advisors and Instructors across the Campus


Retention of engineering students has become a major concern for universities across the country. At Iowa State University the college of engineering loses about 10% of their incoming 1st year students within the first semester and about 25% after one year. Those students who are academically struggling leave at an even higher rate. Research points to the success of early warning systems that include interactions with a significant university authority figure who can reach out to students early on to provide guidance and support. The college developed an easy- to-use web-based tool for instructors who teach the first year math, chemistry, and engineering courses. The instructors are able to quickly send email notices within the first four to six weeks to hundreds of students and their advisors informing them on how they are doing in their class. This paper chronicles the development and implementation of using this tool, along with the development of partnerships with engineering advisors and instructors across different colleges. Initial findings indicate that the early warning system is having a positive effect. The results and evaluation of this program is also detailed.


The transition students make from high school to college creates many new challenges for students. One of the adjustments to college that students must make involves separating from parents. As students experience anxiety related to this separation, they act out their attachment styles1. Secure attachment to parents has been found to be positively associated with personal, social, and academic success in college students2,3,4,5. Insecure attachment leads to anxiety and the avoidance of relating to others1,6. It is estimated that 20% to 28% of people have insecure attachments and with that comes maladaptive forms of coping with problems under stress. Students need to have positive coping skills to deal with the challenges they will face in the classroom and outside of it. These coping skills include seeking help when faced with emotional or academic difficulties7,8. Without these skills students will tend to avoid or deny their problems9, 10, 11,12,13.

College faculty and advisors know that there are always a certain percentage of students when confronted with doing poorly in their classes who do not reach out to people who could help them such as their instructor, an advisor, or even their peers. Therefore, the challenge for college administrators is finding a way to reach students who are having trouble early on. Understanding that many students who do not reach out not only have a certain amount of anxiety about asking for help, but that they also may not have the skills needed to overcome maladaptive coping behaviors can help faculty and advisors when they work with these students.

Providing a way for advisors to learn of students having trouble especially during their first semester, helps advisors be proactive in reaching out to their students. Developing a positive and reassuring relationship early on with the advisor or a faculty member helps to reduce the anxiety

Goodwin, M., & Brandau, A., & DeWall, D., & Du, B. (2010, June), Implementation Of An Early Warning System In Engineering: A Partnership With Academic Advisors And Instructors Across The Campus Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky.

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: © 2010 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