Asee peer logo

Persistence In Engineering Education: Experiences Of First Year Students At A Historically Black University

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Knowing Students: Diversity & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.997.1 - 10.997.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Lorraine Fleming

author page

Kimarie Engerman

author page

Ashley Griffin

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Persistence in Engineering Education: Experiences of First Year Students at a Historically Black University

Lorraine Fleming, Kimarie Engerman, Ashley Griffin Howard University

I. Introduction Most students are motivated and academically prepared to study engineering when they enroll as first year students in engineering majors. Unfortunately, these programs experience considerable attrition between the first two years of study. The literature highlights social and institutional adjustments as well as lost motivation as hurdles that lead to first year attrition. Yet, many students overcome these hurdles and persist to earn engineering degrees. Because first year experiences play a major role in reinforcing persistence for achievement in engineering, it is important for engineering educators to be aware of potential hurdles that can affect student achievement.

Researchers who have studied the factors impacting student persistence have either used a qualitative or a quantitative approach to gathering data. But few, if any, have conducted studies using a mixed method of both quantitative and qualitative procedures together. This paper describes the findings of a mixed method study in which the first year experiences of students of color majoring in engineering are explored. The study focuses on two fundamental questions: (1) What are students’ motivations for studying engineering; and (2) Are students satisfied with the institutional factors that are necessary for persistence in engineering? Using grounded theory, persistence factors have emerged inductively from the body of qualitative data (i.e. unstructured ethnographic interviews). The six persistence factors that surfaced were: (1) family influences; (2) financial motivation; (3) mathematics and science proficiency; (4) academic advising; (5) quality of instruction; and (6) availability of faculty. The findings of other researchers pertaining to these factors and their impact on students of color are highlighted below.

Family Influences Pearson and Bieschke1 found that family relationships influenced career development. Earlier works by Ogbu2 and Leslie, McClure, and Oaxaca3 had considered the impact of family influences on minorities. Ogbu stated that African Americans learn the level of optimism they should have about career choice from the family. Leslie et. al.’s study looked at engineering minorities. Their results showed that having a parent in an engineering occupation increased minorities’ probability of selecting engineering as a major. Not only did having a parent as an engineer create the perception that becoming an engineer is a realistic goal, but it also reinforced science self-efficacy and supported the student becoming committed to the goal of becoming an engineer.

Financial Motivation Studies have shown that in some cases money is a motivational factor for one’s choice of careers but in other cases it is not. Heyman, Martyna, and Bhatia’s4 quantitative study examined the

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Fleming, L., & Engerman, K., & Griffin, A. (2005, June), Persistence In Engineering Education: Experiences Of First Year Students At A Historically Black University Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14641

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015