June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.734.1 - 11.734.10
Improving Engineering Undergraduate Retention via Research and Internships
Retention of lower division students is a continuing concern in academia. In response to these concerns, a program was initiated in the Boise State University College of Engineering to improve lower division retention via research and internships. Inclusion of lower division students in both university research and industry internships is contrary to prevailing perceptions of student capabilities. However, lower division engineering students generally possess numerous basic skills that enable them to work in an engineering environment where they can gain experience and confidence. Phase One of the Retention through Research and Internships Program was a pilot program in which seven first year engineering students were placed in research laboratories with faculty mentors within the College of Engineering during the 2004-05 academic year. At the beginning of the Fall 2005 semester, 100% of the participating students remained in the program. In addition, interviews of the students revealed that many believed that the research laboratory experience and environment increased their confidence and motivation, and was pivotal in their decision to remain in engineering. As a result of the successful Phase One pilot program, a Phase Two program has been initiated, in which first and second year engineering students are being placed in industry internships during the academic year 2005-06.
Student retention is an issue among university academic programs nationwide; however, in a field already plagued with declining enrollment, retaining engineering students is of particular importance. Boise State University students that did not return for their second year were interviewed by the Office of Institutional Assessment. Financial difficulties were given as the most common reason for not returning the following semester. Of those surveyed, 21% stated finances were the major factor, and 16% left primarily due to job responsibilities. Other reasons included lack of motivation and feeling alone and isolated.1 As one of the nine western engineering colleges engaging in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Engineering Schools of the West Initiative, the Boise State University College of Engineering received a five- year grant to support recruitment and retention programs. To address the concerns of students leaving due to financial difficulties and lack of engagement, a pilot program (Phase One) was launched in 2004 funded by this grant.
Internships, either in research or industry, allow students to connect theory to practice through work-based, experiential learning. Participation in an internship allows students to receive mentoring from role models working in the engineering research lab or industry, and from fellow interns in an organization. Prior research has shown that students engaged in undergraduate research perceived a positive impact on their cognitive and personal skills, and that students were more likely to pursue graduate degrees.2 Additionally, significant positive effects from student participation in cooperative education upon academic performance and graduate earnings have been statistically reported.3 Based on this data, pilot programs were initiated to increase retention
Seevers, M., & Pyke, P., & Knowlton, W., & Schrader, C., & Gardner, J. (2006, June), Improving Engineering Undergraduate Retention Via Research And Internships Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1394
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