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Mapping Rural Students’ STEM Involvement: Case Studies of Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment in the States of Illinois and Kansas

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

"How Do We Compare?" - Students, Case Studies, and Learning Approaches

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.885.1 - 23.885.26



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Paper Authors


Joel J. Versypt University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Joel J. Versypt is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a master's degree in Higher Education Administration and Leadership. He also holds bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies from Judson University. At the University of Illinois, Joel taught two courses, Introduction to Psychology and Career Theory & Practice, and worked in university housing. His research interests are in engineering education and higher education ranking systems. He actively participates in K-12 STEM outreach events, primarily through the Society of Women Engineers and Girl Scouts.

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Ashlee N. Ford Versypt Massachusetts Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Ashlee N. Ford Versypt is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in ChE at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her B.S. at the University of Oklahoma. Her research focuses on developing computational models for drug delivery and pharmaceutical manufacturing. She is very involved with science and engineering outreach activities for K-12, particularly with Girl Scouts and students from rural areas.

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Mapping Rural Students’ STEM Involvement: Case Studies of Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment in the States of Illinois and KansasThirty percent of America's K-12 students attend rural schools according to the NationalResearch Center on Rural Education Support. While many research endeavors investigate howone’s gender, race, or socioeconomic status affect participation in the science, technology,engineering, and math (STEM) “pipeline,” less research is focused on rural students as anunderrepresented group. Rural students may face numerous obstacles to entering the STEMfields including low educational aspirations, lack of STEM role models, lack of access to STEMoutreach, and lack of access to advanced math and science curriculum. These factors can bothlimit students’ entry into STEM fields and hinder the progress towards degree completion oncethe students maturate.This paper focuses on rural students and their representation in the STEM pipeline through casestudies in the field of chemical engineering. The primary contribution is a geographic analysis ofthe distribution of chemical engineering undergraduate students studying in two states. Thepurpose of the research is to determine the representation of rural students amongst chemicalengineering undergraduates and to identify ways to improve the flow of rural students throughthe STEM pipeline in chemical engineering.The researchers used the geographic software program ArcGIS to map the zip codes of thepermanent addresses for in-state undergraduate students studying chemical engineering at publicand private universities in Kansas and Illinois (see Figures 1-2). Census data showing the urbanareas in each state are included. The maps show that rural students are underrepresented in thechemical engineering discipline as the percent of rural students studying chemical engineeringin-state is significantly lower than the total percent of rural population. The paper also providesrecommendations for actions that could be undertaken to increase STEM participation anddegree attainment for rural students by various entities, including colleges and universities,chemical engineering departments, rural high schools, and industry.Figure 1: Home address distribution of chemical engineering undergraduates from Kansasattending in-state universities 2011-2012.Figure 2: Home address distribution of chemical engineering undergraduates from Illinoisattending in-state universities 2010-2011.

Versypt, J. J., & Ford Versypt, A. N. (2013, June), Mapping Rural Students’ STEM Involvement: Case Studies of Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment in the States of Illinois and Kansas Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22270

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