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Multi-Institutional Evaluation of Engineering Discipline Selection

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 16: That Important Decision - Which Engineering Major?

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1175.1 - 26.1175.13



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Paper Authors


Kerry L. Meyers Youngstown State University

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Dr. Kerry Meyers holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (B.S. & M.S. Mechanical Engineering) and is specifically focused on programs that influence student’s experience, affect retention rates, and the factors that determine the overall long term success of students entering an engineering program. She is the Director of the STEM College’s First-Year Engineering Program and formerly the director of First-Year Engineering at the University of Notre Dame). She is committed to the betterment of the undergraduate curriculum and is still actively involved in the classroom, teaching over half of the First-Year Engineering Students each semester.

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Gregory Warren Bucks University of Cincinnati

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Gregory Bucks joined the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Cincinnati in 2012. He received his BSEE from the Pennsylvania State University in 2004, his MSECE from Purdue University in 2006, and his PhD in Engineering Education in 2010, also from Purdue University. After completing his PhD, he taught for two years at Ohio Northern University in the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science department, before making the transition to the University of Cincinnati. He has taught a variety of classes ranging introductory programming and first-year engineering design courses to introductory and advanced courses in electronic circuits. He is a member of ASEE, IEEE, and ACM.

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Kathleen A Harper The Ohio State University

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Kathleen A. Harper is a senior lecturer in the Engineering Education Innovation Center at The Ohio State University. She received her M. S. in physics and B. S. in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Western Reserve University, and her Ph. D. in physics from The Ohio State University. She has been on the staff of Ohio State’s University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, in addition to teaching in both the physics department and college of engineering. Her research interests address a broad spectrum of educational topics, but her specialty is in how people learn problem solving skills.

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Victoria E Goodrich University of Notre Dame

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Dr. Victoria Goodrich is the Director of the First-Year Engineering Program at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and a MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from Notre Dame. Her research focuses primarily on Engineering Education issues, especially focused within the first-year engineering experience.

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ASEE 2015 – Multi‐Institutional Evaluation of Engineering Discipline Selection  During the fall of 2014, a quantitative study of first‐year engineering student discipline selection was conducted at four dissimilar institutions in the Midwest:  (1) a medium‐sized public urban, (2) a medium‐sized suburban private, (3) a large public urban land grant, and (4) a large public urban.   The institutions studied were selected to evaluate both program similarities and differences.  A primary attribute that separates the institutions is the process by which students matriculate to a degree program.  Three of the four institutions in the study have a formal First‐Year Engineering Program in which students do not declare an engineering major initially.  Instead, students determine their path throughout the first year as they gather information about the engineering disciplines offered at their institution; generally students begin in their selected engineering discipline in the fall of their sophomore year, after completing the First‐Year Engineering Program requirements for their institution.  The fourth institution, the large public urban, has direct matriculation to engineering disciplinary programs (although students may still switch to another discipline even after taking an introductory course sequence in a different engineering discipline).  The fourth institution, the large public urban, has direct matriculation to engineering disciplinary programs (although it is still relatively easy to change disciplines up through the first semester, after which students begin with disciplinary coursework).  Another differentiating factor is that three of the four institutions studied are public schools in urban settings while the fourth is private in a suburban setting.    Finally, the institutions studied vary in terms of enrollments:  two were medium‐sized universities with  approximately 10,000‐15,000 undergraduates and two are large universities with more than 30,000 undergraduates.  By virtue of the study design (using multiple dissimilar institutions in terms of enrollments, campus environments, and engineering program structure), researchers will be able to make meaningful statistical comparisons generalizable to other institutions about First‐Year Engineering disciplinary selection.   At all four institutions, an on‐line survey was conducted at the start and at the end of the fall 2014 semester.  The questions related to how interested students are in engineering (as compared to other academic majors), how certain they are that engineering is the best field of study for them, which discipline of engineering they are most interested in studying, and how certain they are of that engineering discipline choice.  Additionally, an open‐ended response section asked the students to describe what someone from a specific discipline could do in the workplace.  For this study, the disciplines of Civil, Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical were chosen due to their commonality among the participating institutions.  For the initial survey, there were complete survey responses from 2,744 students, which was a collective 58.2% response rate across the four institutions studied.    The preliminary results indicate the students enrolled in the large universities look most similar in terms of their level of interest in engineering and their certainty that engineering is the best academic major for them.  The urban public and the large urban public had the largest percentage of students indicating the highest level of interest in engineering, with 80.7% and 78.3% of respondents selecting “Very Interested,” respectively.  Finally, the students at the private school indicated the lowest level of certainty of engineering being the best major for them, and likewise the lowest certainty of engineering discipline selection.   While these results are preliminary, the final survey responses will allow for comparisons both between institutions and within each institution.  Analysis of the open‐ended response questions will also allow for an examination of how student understanding of the four disciplines chosen change over the course of the first semester.  The remaining data will be collected at the conclusion of the fall 2014 semester and complete results available for the full paper submission.  

Meyers, K. L., & Bucks, G. W., & Harper, K. A., & Goodrich, V. E. (2015, June), Multi-Institutional Evaluation of Engineering Discipline Selection Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24512

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