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Living, Learning, and Staying: The Impact of a Women in Engineering Living and Learning Community

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

WIED: Strategies Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.872.1 - 24.872.21



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Paper Authors


Cate Samuelson University of Washington

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Cate Samuelson, Ph.D., is a senior research associate at the University of Washington Center for Workforce Development. She is responsible for the qualitative research analysis on the Sloan Foundation-funded national study called Project to Assess Climate in Engineering (PACE). She also manages qualitative components of several evaluation and needs-assessment projects. She has worked as a research assistant and independent research consultant on a variety of qualitative research projects and evaluations, including those focused on educational leadership, STEM education, and academic and social supports for disadvantaged students. Prior to her career in research, she worked as a public school teacher for eight years.

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Elizabeth Litzler University of Washington

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Elizabeth Litzler, Ph.D., is the director for research at the University of Washington Center for Workforce Development and an affiliate assistant professor of sociology. She directs research projects from conceptualization, methodological design, and collection of data and analysis to dissemination of research findings. Dr. Litzler manages the Sloan-funded Project to Assess Climate in Engineering (PACE), which uses quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the culture for women and underrepresented minorities in 21 engineering colleges nationwide. She also directs the external evaluation for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). In addition to her leadership in the office, Dr. Litzler is a member of ASEE and a board member of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Her research interests include the educational climate for students in science and engineering, and gender and race stratification in education and the workforce.

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Candice L. Staples University of Maryland


Paige E. Smith University of Maryland, College Park

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Paige Smith, Ph.D. is the director of the Women in Engineering Program in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Paige has over 20 years of experience with recruiting and retaining diverse populations in engineering. Under her leadership, the Women in Engineering Program received the 2008 National Engineers Week Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Award. She is the principal investigator for a National Science Foundation's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant called the Successful Engineering Education and Development Support (SEEDS) Program. SEEDS extends successful women in engineering retention programs to all first-year and new external transfer students in the Clark School. Paige is the co-lead for the Mid-Atlantic Girls Collaborative (MAGiC), a regional collaborative within the NSF-funded National Girls Collaborative Project which brings together girl-serving organizations across Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. that are committed to increasing the number of young women pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Currently, Paige is serving as the Immediate Past President for the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Paige earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in industrial and systems engineering and B.S. in engineering science and mechanics from Virginia Tech.

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Catherine T. Amelink Virginia Tech

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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. 10.18260/1-2--22805

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