June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Women in Engineering
24.872.1 - 24.872.21
Living,Learning,andStaying: TheImpactofaWomeninEngineeringLivingandLearningCommunity A number of studies highlight living and learning communities (LLCs) as a factorcontributing to student persistence, particularly in STEM programs (Ballard, 2005; Nakamoto,2011; Shapiro & Sax, 2011). Taking a mixed methods approach, this paper delves into thespecifics of what it takes to develop and run a program targeting women in engineering, thekinds of impacts LLC programs have, and some of the lessons learned. The combination ofqualitative research data and quantitative evaluation data provide an unprecedented opportunityto understand the impact of the LLC as well as why and how it has been effective. For several years, the University of Maryland – College Park has housed Flexus: the Dr.Marilyn Berman Pollans Women in Engineering Living and Learning Community. This LLC issolely for first and second year women, who are in vital years of their student development.Flexus provides a space for these women to feel supported, explore different options withinengineering, and gain skills that are not taught to the general population. Additionally, everyparticipant in Flexus is required to take a one-credit course each semester and complete aminimum of four service hours. This paper will explore how Flexus has helped improve the experiences of women inengineering majors. In 2013, researchers from the Project to Assess Climate in Engineering(PACE), which is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, conducted focus groups withFlexus and non-Flexus engineering students. Researchers triangulated program evaluation datagathered by the institution with the focus group data collected by the PACE team to illuminatebest practices for building inclusive environments for and retaining women pursuing engineeringmajors. Findings indicate that encouraging these women to live together within one residence hallcreates a strong sense of community. The size of college campuses can overwhelm students, andin turn affect their sense of belonging which can affect retention. By creating a community,these large campuses can begin to feel more like home. Together these women learn to study,socialize, and rely on each other. Flexus women are more likely to remain within the School ofEngineering at higher rates than their peers.
Samuelson, C., & Litzler, E., & Staples, C. L., & Smith, P. E., & Amelink, C. T. (2014, June), Living, Learning, and Staying: The Impact of a Women in Engineering Living and Learning Community Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/22805
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