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Industrial Engineering: Why Students Come And What Makes Them Stay?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Increasing Enrollment in IE/IET Programs Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.759.1 - 10.759.10



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Paper Authors

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Randa Shehab

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Teri Rhoads

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Teri Murphy

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

Industrial Engineering: Why students come and what makes them stay?

Randa L. Shehab1, Teri Reed Rhoads1, 2, and Teri J. Murphy3 School of Industrial Engineering1, College of Engineering2, Department of Mathematics3, the University of Oklahoma


The relative anonymity of industrial engineering may be a significant reason for the slow growth of the discipline and the relatively low enrollment in industrial engineering academic programs. In order to inform industrial engineering (IE) degree programs of factors that help increase both enrollment and graduation rates, this paper summarizes the outcomes of IE student interviews regarding what drew them to the industrial engineering program at the University of Oklahoma and what encouraged them to stay. Out of 45 IE students interviewed, 79 total comments (comprising 13 classifications) were identified addressing recruiting and only 27 comments (across 5 classifications) addressed retention. The majority of students (53%) reported that the nature of the degree was a critical factor in choosing IE as a major. This demonstrates the importance of informing students about IE as a career option. For retention, it appeared that student-faculty interaction had the strongest impact, as reported by 29% of the sample. While this factor may be more difficult to implement, it was critical for students in our sample to have interaction with the faculty outside of the classroom and to feel that the faculty were interested in the students’ futures.


The number of engineering graduates from 1970 to 2000 has increased considerably in spite of the periodic influence of economic trends. Chemical Engineering has experienced a growth of 56% in degrees conferred, with Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering following closely behind (44%, 41%, and 41%, respectively). Industrial Engineering, however, has experienced much more moderate growth in the number of degrees conferred (up only 23%) and lags behind the other disciplines considerably in the actual number of graduates1. In fact, Engineering Trends2 reports that the relative enrollment (proportion of all engineering full-time enrollment) in Industrial Engineering has not changed from 1980 through 2002 nor is it predicted to increase in the near future. And the Engineering Workforce Commission reports that Industrial Engineering has the lowest freshman full-time enrollment of all the engineering disciplines as of Fall 20013.

Thus, it is not surprising that engineering freshman polled about the different engineering disciplines invariably seem to have a concept of what the “traditional” engineering disciplines (i.e. civil, mechanical, electrical) do. However, the question, “Who knows what industrial engineers do?” is met mostly with blank stares. Herein lies a problem attracting students to the field of industrial engineering. This paper reports data that reflect student comments regarding what drew them to the industrial engineering program at the University of Oklahoma and what

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Shehab, R., & Rhoads, T., & Murphy, T. (2005, June), Industrial Engineering: Why Students Come And What Makes Them Stay? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14599

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