Asee peer logo

Probing Correlations Between Undergraduate Engineering Programs’ Customizability and Gender Diversity

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Marissa H. Forbes University of Colorado Boulder

visit author page

Marissa H. Forbes is a research associate in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and lead editor of the TeachEngineering digital library. She previously taught middle school science and engineering and wrote K-12 STEM curricula while an NSF GK-12 graduate engineering fellow at CU. She went on to teach advanced placement and algebra-based physics for the Denver School of Science and Technology, where she also created and taught a year-long, design-based engineering course for seniors. Forbes earned her PhD in civil engineering, with an engineering education research focus.

visit author page


Angela R Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

visit author page


Jacquelyn F. Sullivan University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Jacquelyn Sullivan is founding co-director of the Engineering Plus degree program in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She spearheaded design and launch of the Engineering GoldShirt Program to provide a unique access pathway to engineering for high potential, next tier students not admitted through the standard admissions process; this program is now being adapted at several engineering colleges. Sullivan led the founding of the Precollege division of ASEE in 2004; was awarded NAE’s 2008 Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, and was conferred as an ASEE Fellow in 2011. She has served on multiple NAE committees, and on the NSF ENG division's Advisory Committee.

visit author page

author page

Ray Lynn Littlejohn

Download Paper |


A low percentage of women students is prevalent in most engineering disciplines, resulting in a loss of diverse input and perspectives to the profession. Previous studies demonstrated that engineering programs commonly offer students few opportunities to choose their own courses as compared to their non-engineering campus peers. Preliminary research, survey, and enrollment findings led to the question as to whether the extent of curricular flexibility and customizability in an engineering program may differentially matter to women students. This preliminary quantitative study explored whether increased course choice opportunities (such as free electives, technical electives, etc.) correlated to higher enrollments of women and/or bachelor’s degrees earned by women in a sampling of chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering programs. Percentages of total degree credit hours comprised of free electives and course choices were delineated for 84 highly regarded engineering programs. Correlations were found between curricular choice and percentage female enrollments and bachelor’s degrees awarded to women. The results point to the need for additional research to ascertain whether providing more customizable degree program options may be a means of attracting more women to undergraduate engineering programs.

Forbes, M. H., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Sullivan, J. F., & Littlejohn, R. L. (2018, June), Probing Correlations Between Undergraduate Engineering Programs’ Customizability and Gender Diversity Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30892

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: © 2018 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