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Multi-year Cross-sectional Study of Perceptions of and Self-confidence in Engineering as a Major and Profession of Female First-semester First-year Students

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Wednesday Cornucopia (Educational Research)

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33129

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Paper Authors

biography

Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer Purdue University

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Dr. Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer is Associate Director of the Women in Engineering Program and Associate Professor (by courtesy) in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University. Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer conducts research and leads retention activities including administration of the undergraduate and graduate mentoring programs and the teaching of the Women in Engineering seminar courses. For the past decade, Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer’s research has focused on broadening participation of women and underrepresented group in STEM fields. Recently, she has been investigating the intersection of education and career path with cultural identity and is developing strategies to inform programming and policies that facilitate recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations in academia. In 2012 Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer was presented with an Outstanding Alumni Award from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University. She also serves on their Alumni Advisory Board. Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer earned her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Purdue University.

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biography

Emily Fredette Purdue University

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Emily Fredette is a graduate student at Purdue University in Computer Engineering with an interest in Human Computer Interaction and the Automotive Industry, and she currently researches first year engineering students.

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Abstract

This Complete Research paper will describe how first-semester first-year female engineering students perceive the engineering profession and associated career opportunities, as well as their confidence in their choice of both engineering as a career and their specific major. This study examines quantitative data gathered over a decade from nine cohorts of female first-year engineering students from a large Midwestern research institution. At this particular institution, all engineering students begin in First-Year Engineering (FYE) and typically transition into their specific engineering discipline at the start of their sophomore year. Students enrolled in a Women in Engineering seminar were surveyed in the first and last weeks of their first semester in FYE. The assessment instruments were designed to measure their perceptions of the engineering profession and career opportunities and their self-confidence in selecting engineering as a career and their specific major.

Results indicate that female students gain a better understanding of the engineering profession and the various career options for engineering majors during their first semester of college. At the conclusion of their first semester, they are also more confident in their selection of engineering as both a career and a major. However, their excitement towards future engineering classes has significantly diminished. Also noteworthy is that over the past decade, understanding of the profession and awareness of career options for engineers has steadily increased implying that students are now entering the university better informed about the field of engineering.

This paper will explore first-year female students’ perception of and self-confidence with respect to engineering. Results and conclusions from this study may be used to improve the support and resources provided to first-year women in engineering with the ultimate goal of increased persistence.

Zurn-Birkhimer, S., & Fredette, E. (2019, June), Multi-year Cross-sectional Study of Perceptions of and Self-confidence in Engineering as a Major and Profession of Female First-semester First-year Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33129

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