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Motivation of Latina Students Leading to Retention in Engineering

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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

It Takes a Village: Engineering Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.915.1 - 23.915.13



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Paper Authors

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Carrie Robinson Arizona State University

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Motivating Factors that Influence the Retention of Latina Students in EngineeringFemales and underrepresented ethnic minorities earn a small percentage of the engineering andcomputer science bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States, receive an even smallerproportion of master’s and doctoral degrees, and are underrepresented in the engineeringworkforce. Considerable research has examined the perceptions, culture, curriculum, andpedagogy in postsecondary engineering education that impedes the achievement ofunderrepresented populations. However, this research used a positive perspective to recognizethe motivating factors that promote the retention of underrepresented students in engineering,rather than identifying factors that lead to attrition.This action research study at a large public university used a qualitative approach to examine thecharacteristics and experiences of Latina students who pursued a bachelor’s degree inengineering as part of the 2008 first-time full-time freshman cohort. The researcher conductedtwo semi-structured individual interviews with seven undergraduate Latina students whosuccessfully persisted from their first to their fourth year in engineering. To provide a holisticcontext to her interview findings, the researcher also observed the meetings and activities of amulticultural engineering student organization. The study aimed to understand whatcharacteristics made Latina students successful and how their experiences motivated theirpersistence in an engineering major.The data collected in this study revealed three motivating factors that had a significant role in theLatina participants’ persistence in an engineering degree program. These motivators includedtheir parents’ consistent expectations for success and high academic achievement; the students’desire to overcome the discrimination, stereotyping, and naysayers that they encountered oncampus and within their community; and their aspirations to become a role model for theirfamily and other students interested in pursuing engineering. From the data collected, theresearcher will provide suggestions for engineering programs to implement and adapt activitiesand support systems that can improve the retention and graduation rates of undergraduate Latinasin engineering.

Robinson, C. (2013, June), Motivation of Latina Students Leading to Retention in Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22300

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