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Paper: Overcoming Comfort Zones to Better the Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Engineering Students (Tricks of the Trade) (WIP)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

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Student Division Technical Session 4

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Paper Authors


Pasquale Sanfelice

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Pasquale Sanfelice completed Associates in Engineering Science (AES) at the City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College as the class of 2021's salutatorian. Pasquale was admitted to Wright as an Engineering Pathway student in Fall 2019 and will pursue his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University in Fall 2021. Pasquale was the American Chemical Society's Student Chapter president AY 2020-2021, a volunteer engineering tutor, and a research assistant within the National Science Foundation's “Building Bridges into Engineering and Computer Science” research grant under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program.

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Mia Erdenebileg

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Mia Erdenebileg completed Associates in Engineering Science (AES) at the City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College in the Engineering Pathways Program. She is pursuing a BS in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Fall of 2021. Mia was the President of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers and the Education Director of the Association of Computing Machinery at Wilbur Wright Student Chapters. She is a tutor for the Wright Tutoring Center as well as a research assistant for the NSF: HSI ”Building Bridges into Engineering and Computer Science”.

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Doris J. Espiritu Wilbur Wright College- One of the City Colleges of Chicago

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Doris J. Espiritu, PhD is the Executive Director of the College Center of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science and a professor of Chemistry at Wright College. Doris Espiritu is one of the first National Science Foundation’s research awardees under the Hispanic- Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. She pioneered Engineering at Wright and had grown the Engineering program enrollment by 700 % within two years of the NSF-HSI project. Doris founded six student chapters of national organizations including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and nine times Outstanding Chapter Awardee, the American Chemical Society-Wright College Chapter. Doris promotes collaboration between K-12 schools, other community colleges, 4-year institutions, non-profit organizations, and industries. Doris' current research is to design and implement practices that develop Community of Practice (CoP), Professional Identity, and Self-Efficacy to increase diversity in Engineering and Computer Science and to streamline transfer from community colleges to 4-year institutions.

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Across the country, community colleges take interventional measures to eliminate factors that thwart the retention, engagement, and success of their respective students. Among the most debilitating of these factors is the lack of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is defined as the confidence an individual has in their ability to achieve an objective effectively. Considering that low self-efficacy is attributed to a variety of reasons, there is no standard practice to eliminate this issue for every student. A combination of approaches is used concurrently by programs in order to address common causes including diversity exclusion and gender inequality. Community college engineering programs across the country attempt to increase student success through different interventions. However, academically exceptional students often fail to delve into co-curricular activities, especially at the community colleges. Community colleges are often commuter schools and students do not feel the need to get involved with co-curricular activities. Oftentimes, students are apprehensive about appending extracurriculars to their workload with the belief that this may negatively affect their performance to an unknown degree. Although it has been shown that participation in co-curricular activities will increase confidence, leadership and belonging that will increase classroom performance, community college students opt to stay within a comfort zone of their current, solely academic workload and give up vital opportunities to develop professionally. We hypothesize that increased participation in co-curricular activities will increase self-efficacy and will improve academic performance. In this paper, we will correlate co-curricular participation to success. Utilizing personal experiences of ABC engineering students and alumni, this paper will shed light on the comfort zone dilemma and supports the concept of a compounding reward-system as means to increase the self-efficacy of undergraduate engineering students by repeatedly overcoming their comfort zones. The concept of a compounding reward system will be validated by correlating individual students’ grade point averages (GPA) and course workloads to overall time commitments and co-curricular activities per semester. Student participation will also be correlated with time to degree completion at the community college. We will use a survey and case study interviews to assess self-efficacy in relation to community college engineering students’ participation. By correlating student involvement with GPA and time to degree completion we will determine the role of the reward system in increasing student self-efficacy and, thus, student success.

Sanfelice, P., & Erdenebileg, M., & Espiritu, D. J. (2021, July), Paper: Overcoming Comfort Zones to Better the Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Engineering Students (Tricks of the Trade) (WIP) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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