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Preliminary Findings On Freshmen Engineering Students’ Professional Identity: Implications For Recruitment And Retention

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

ERM Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

12

Page Numbers

14.968.1 - 14.968.12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/5112

Download Count

95

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Paper Authors

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TK Beam James Madison University

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TK Beam is a first year graduate student in the School Psychology program at James Madison University. Prior to her graduate education, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in psychology. She currently serves as a graduate assistant to Dr. Olga Pierrakos working on an NSF funded BRIGE project investigating engineering identity.

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Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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OLGA PIERRAKOS is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering at James Madison University. Dr. Pierrakos holds a B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her interests in engineering education research center around recruitment and retention, understanding engineering students through the lens of identity theory, advancing problem based learning methodologies, assessing student learning, as well as understanding and integrating complex problem solving in undergraduate engineering education. This latter project is funded through her recent NSF CAREER award. Her other research interests lie in cardiovascular fluid mechanics and K-12 engineering education.

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Jamie Constantz James Madison University

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JAMIE CONSTANTZ is a first year graduate student in the School Psychology program at James Madison University. Prior to her graduate studies at James Madison, she graduated from Niagara University with a B.A. in psychology. She currently serves as a graduate assistant to Dr. Olga Pierrakos working on an NSF funded BRIGE project investigating engineering identity.

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Aditya Johri Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9018-7574

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ADITYA JOHRI is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech with an affiliated appointment at the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2007) and his research examines the relationship between technology, organizing, and learning. He is especially interested in bridging the "worlds" of formal and informal learning in order to design seamless learning environments. http://www.enge.vt.edu/johri

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Robin Anderson James Madison University

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ROBIN ANDERSON is a professor and practitioner in Center for Assessment and Research Studies where she serves as the Associate Director. Previous to serving at James Madison University, Dr. Anderson worked with Blue Ridge Community College and the Virginia Community College System where she coordinated the System's core competency assessments. Dr. Anderson started the Journal of Research and Practice in Assessment and currently serves as the President of the Virginia Assessment Group.

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

Preliminary Findings on Freshmen Engineering Students’ Professional Identity: Implications for Recruitment and Retention

Abstract

Despite a significant increase in efforts to recruit and retain more engineering students through initiatives such as learning communities, mentoring, and pre-college programs, the decline in engineering enrollment continues. Recent research suggests that students’ identity and identification with engineering plays a critical role in their decision to pursue engineering and to persist once they start their professional education. This study further examines the role of identity among freshmen engineering students through the lens of identity theory. Whereas prior work focused on the development of a singular engineering identity, we draw on current research in social psychology to investigate the multi-faceted nature of identity, with one person being able to maintain several identities simultaneously, and its role in recruitment and retention. We undertook a qualitative study and conducted a combination of focus groups and interviews (N=36), focusing on engineering, science, and non-STEM students, including students who switched out of engineering. Questions were directed towards attempting to understand the factors involved in the development of a professional identity. In this paper, we present in-depth case studies of two female students to highlight the concept of multiple identities and their formation. Through this deep representation of professional identity, we found that exposure to engineering and overall familiarity with the field proved to be one of the largest factors effecting retention. Our preliminary findings point to the conclusion that recruitment and retention can be improved by increasing the presence of engineering in K-12 settings and undergraduate institutions respectively. We suggest directions for future work and discuss our plans to explore the development of the professional identity over time (from freshman to senior year) as well as additional levels of identity formation and transformation.

Introduction

The need to protect the competitive ability of the U.S. and maintain its technological edge against challenges such as outsourcing and the comparative decline of U.S. engineers and scientists is increasingly becoming a national concern. This is evident from concerns raised by the academic community through publications such as Rising Above the Gathering Storm 1, through the mainstream media, via The World is Flat 2, and current policies, as evidenced by the passage of The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellent in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES) in August 2007 3. COMPETES allocates over $40 billion to improving STEM educators, STEM education, and STEM work opportunities. This bill highlights and attempts to address the concerns of decreasing retention and recruitment rates of STEM students in higher education institutions.

According to the most recent Science and Engineering Indicators report of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the percentages of all freshmen intending to major in engineering or computer sciences dropped in recent years 4. Despite an increase in the numerous efforts to recruit and retain more engineering students, such as learning communities, mentoring, pre-

Beam, T., & Pierrakos, O., & Constantz, J., & Johri, A., & Anderson, R. (2009, June), Preliminary Findings On Freshmen Engineering Students’ Professional Identity: Implications For Recruitment And Retention Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5112

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: © 2009 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