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Professional Expectations and Program Climate Affect the Professional Formation of Engineers

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 4: Professional Development in Undergraduate Programs

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

24

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33195

Download Count

28

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Paper Authors

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Manuel Alejandro Figueroa The College of New Jersey

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Dr. Manuel Figueroa is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey. He teaches in the Department of Integrative STEM Education and prepares pre-service teachers to become K-12 technology and engineering educators. His research involves engaging college students in human centered design and improving creativity. He also develops biotechnology and nanotechnology inspired lessons that naturally integrate the STEM disciplines. He received his PhD in biomedical engineering from Drexel University and was an NSF Graduate STEM Fellow in K-12 Education (GK-12).

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Diane C. Bates The College of New Jersey

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Dr. Diane C. Bates is a Professor of Sociology, with research interest and expertise in education in quantitative methods and retention in higher education in STEM disciplines.

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J. Lynn Gazley The College of New Jersey

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J. Lynn Gazley is Associate Professor of Sociology at TCNJ. Her research interests focus on diversity and inclusion in the sciences, and how these processes shape scientific knowledge-making. She has served as a Research Associate and Visiting Scholar with Northwestern University’s Scientific Careers Research and Development Group since 2010, working on a longitudinal study of over 200 graduate students in the life sciences.Her major research project, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded “FIRSTS (Foundation for Increasing and Retaining STEM Students) Program: A Bridge Program to Study the Development of Science Identities,” examines mentoring relationships, identity development, and the role of outside-of-college commitments in persistence among students coming to STEM majors
with limited financial support.

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Christopher Wagner The College of New Jersey Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8478-1718

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Dr. Wagner is currently Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), where he has taught students at all levels of the curriculum. For over 14 years prior to joining TCNJ, he was engaged in medical device technology and product development for the Biosurgery and Regenerative Medicine markets. He coordinates the BME Capstone Senior Project course, wherein students design and prototype novel medical devices within the Design Control framework, preparing them for development careers in the medical device industry. He earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering with Certificates in Biomedical Engineering and Personnel Management from the University of Rochester, followed by a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering from Rice University for research investigating fluid dynamic shear force effects on platelet activation and genetic regulation of vascular smooth muscle cells. His current research interests focus on mechanical stimulation effects on cellular differentiation, natural tissues as bioscaffolds, and tissue engineering mechanically sensitive tissues.

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Steven Schreiner P.E. The College of New Jersey

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Bijan Sepahpour P.E. The College of New Jersey

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Bijan Sepahpour is a registered Professional Engineer and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the College of New Jersey (TCNJ). He has served as the Chairperson of the ME department at TCNJ from 2006 through 2015. Prof. Sepahpour has been actively involved in the generation of design-oriented exercises and development of laboratory apparatus and experiments in the areas of mechanics of materials and dynamics of machinery for undergraduate engineering programs. He has advised on over forty (40) Senior Design Projects and his teams of students have received five (5) National Championships and three Best Design Awards. In the recent years, he has challenged himself with the creation of an effective methodology for successful Invention and Innovation. He was part of a 14 member multi-disciplinary team to design and create the "Society, Ethics, and Technology (SET)" course at TCNJ in 1994 and has taught multiple regular and Honors sections of this course since then. He is currently leading a multi-disciplinary team of faculty from TCNJ's School of Engineering and the Department of Sociology for assessment of the Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE). Professor Sepahpour did his undergraduate studies at TCNJ and has advanced degrees from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). He is the recipient of two (2) Best Paper Awards from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Divisions of Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Experimentation and Laboratory Oriented Studies (DELOS). He has served as the Chair of the Divisions of ME and DELOS of the ASEE. Prof. Sepahpour is an active member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and ASEE and has published and presented extensively through these societies.

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Abstract

This research paper explores how engineering undergraduates change their understanding of professional expectations from the first year to near graduation, and whether that understanding varies across gender, race, and/or ethnicity of students. We investigate these questions by analyzing semi-structured, qualitative interview transcripts from 37 engineering undergraduates, who were either in their first semester or in the second semester of their junior year or later. Students were selected purposively, with over samples of women and black/African American and Hispanic students.

In their first semester, students emphasized an academic and pre-professional culture that principally values academic performance, which they viewed mostly as a sink-or-swim, weeding out process. Advanced students, in contrast, emphasized the importance of skills such as teamwork and collegiality over grades for professional formation. Students explain both academic performance and the development of other professional skills as fundamentally meritocratic: underrepresentation of women and some racial and ethnic groups in engineering majors and in the engineering profession were viewed as personal choice or inability to do the necessary work. These narratives are widespread among students, despite the different preparation levels among first year students and the fact that many women and students of color report first and second hand discriminatory experiences before they graduate. We thus suggest that a “color-blind” and gender-blind undergraduate professional culture is constructed by students to obfuscate inhospitable climates and persistent structural challenges for women and students of color.

Figueroa, M. A., & Bates, D. C., & Gazley, J. L., & Wagner, C., & Schreiner, S., & Sepahpour, B. (2019, June), Professional Expectations and Program Climate Affect the Professional Formation of Engineers Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33195

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: © 2019 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