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Non-technical Conferences: Impact on Female Engineering Students

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Gender Track - Technical Session VII

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Gender

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Paper Authors


Mayari I. Serrano Purdue Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Mayari Serrano is currently a graduate research assistant in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. She earned her B.S. degree in biotechnology engineering from the Army Polytechnic School, Quito, Ecuador. She completed her M.S. in Computer and Information Technology at Purdue University, where she is currently a Ph.D. student and working for the Women in Engineering Program. Her interests include fostering STEM enthusiasm and technology innovation.

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Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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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 M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in atmospheric science from Purdue University.

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Rachel Ann Baker

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In academia, it is widely held that attendance at technical conferences is expected of faculty and graduate students. In the past several years, many professional societies have also created space to encourage undergraduate participation. The benefits of attendance includes sharing and learning new research, and networking with individuals in the field. In fact, many institutions provide support for their faculty and students to attend technical conferences. More recently, national conferences focused on professional development have emerged. Rather than focusing on novel research, these venues provide professional development in areas such as mentoring, leadership, empowerment, networking, gender equality, and diversity.

The study collected data from 38 female engineering students, of all academic levels, before and after attending non-technical conferences. This research presents the correlation between the conference focus and the participants’ professional and personal development, commitment with current degree, and usefulness of the conference.

Quantitative and qualitative results show attendance at non-technical conferences may have a positive impact in the persistence aspects examined in this study: confidence, role model inspiration, personal and professional impact, and commitment.

Serrano, M. I., & Zurn-Birkhimer, S., & Baker, R. A. (2018, April), Non-technical Conferences: Impact on Female Engineering Students Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29557

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