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International engineering students’ resistance to isolating university experiences: An opportunity for greater inclusion in engineering education

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2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 3 - Paper 3: International engineering students’ resistance to isolating university experiences: An opportunity for greater inclusion in engineering education

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Memoria Matters Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Memoria Matters is a PhD student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also pursuing a Master's degree at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering for computer engineering, in which she obtained her BSE from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interest is in increasing the diversity of engineering by improving the inclusivity of engineering higher education through teaching methods, policies, and culture change.

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Patrice Marie Buzzanell University of South Florida Orcid 16x16

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Patrice M. Buzzanell is Distinguished University Professor and immediate past Chair of the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida and Endowed Visiting Professor for the School of Media and Design at Shanghai Jiaotong University. Fellow and Past President of the International Communication Association (ICA), she also is a Distinguished Scholar for the National Communication Association (NCA), Past President of the Council of Communication Associations, and Past President and Wise Woman of the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender. She has received career achievement awards from ICA, NCA, the Central States Communication Association, and Purdue University where she was a Distinguished University Professor in communication and engineering education (by courtesy) and Endowed Chair and Director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence. Her primary research areas are organizational communication, career, work-life, resilience, feminist/gender, and design. Her grants have focused on ethics, institutional transformation, and diversity-equity-inclusion-belongingness in the professional formation of engineers.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Carla B. Zoltowski is an assistant professor of engineering practice in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and (by courtesy) School of Engineering Education, and Director of the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program within the College of Engineering at Purdue. Prior to her appointment in ECE, Dr. Zoltowski was Co-Director of the EPICS Program. She holds a B.S.E.E., M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. in Engineering Education, all from Purdue. Her research interests include the professional formation of engineers, diversity, inclusion, and equity in engineering, human-centered design, engineering ethics, and leadership.

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In recent years, large numbers of international students are attending engineering schools in the US; however, more could be done by the schools to support the unique challenges these students face. This study analyzes five semi-structured interviews with international electrical and computer engineering students at Purdue University to identify the unique challenges they face due to their international status, how they persist despite the challenges, and what engineering schools can do to better support them and all students given these findings. Using a framework of student resistance, the theoretical thematic analysis found that international engineering students can struggle with language barriers and social isolation, and that these challenges are often made invisible in the environment of the school. These students most commonly persist by adapting or conforming to the domestic environment, either individually or collectively; they exhibit very few instances of resistance by our chosen definition. To better support international students, we recommend that engineering schools implement more active learning, collaborative learning, and multicultural and group communication education. These initiatives would also improve the experiences and education of all students, including underrepresented students. This article contributes to discussions about the definition and usage of student resistance as a framework for education research.

Matters, M., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Zoltowski, C. B. (2022, February), International engineering students’ resistance to isolating university experiences: An opportunity for greater inclusion in engineering education Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana.

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