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Recruitment, Retention, And Service Learning In Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1015.1 - 14.1015.27



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Paper Authors


John Duffy University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Professor, Mechanical Engineering

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Linda Barrington University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Service-Learning Coordinator, College of Engineering

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Manuel Heredia University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Doctoral Research Assistant, Renewable Energy Engineering

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

Recruitment, Retention, and Service-Learning in Engineering Abstract

In this study, an average of nearly 800 students per semester has participated in S-L projects integrated into courses throughout the four-year engineering curriculum at a public university. Over the academic years 2004-2008, an average of 30 core required engineering courses have had S-L projects each year. The hypothesis is that because the students would see with S-L more directly how engineering can improve the lives of those in the local and international community, they would be more motivated to enter and stay in engineering and try to learn the subject matter better. In terms of recruitment, S-L is advertized to prospective students as the number two reason to come to the college (number one is value). Twenty-two percent of first year students at the end of their first semester reported that S-L was one of the reasons for coming to the college, roughly the same as the 24% in December 2007 and 23% and 21% the previous years. In terms of retention, at the end of the spring 2008 semester, from a representative sample of students across 4 years and 5 departments (n = 369), 64% reported that S-L had a positive impact on the likelihood that they would continue in engineering (25% reported a very strong impact, i.e., chose 9 on a Likert scale of 1 – 9), while only 3.5% reported a negative impact, with the rest neutral. Females and underrepresented groups by race indicated a significantly (5%) more positive impact of S-L on retention on average. The retention responses also correlated positively with a number of responses indicative of factors known to affect retention (e.g., relationship with faculty, previous S-L experience). Enrollments have in fact increased, and overall retention has remained about the same over the last three years, but the effect of the S-L program will probably not be felt for some more years as it matures and improves. In conclusion, the effect of S-L on recruitment and retention of engineering students appears to be positive from the students themselves, and underrepresented groups in engineering appear more motivated to persist and be concerned about helping others in the profession. Introduction

Recruitment and retention appear to be high on the list of concerns in higher education in general and engineering in particular, especially of underrepresented groups1. The introduction of service-learning (S-L) into a number of required courses throughout the curriculum of a college of engineering was undertaken in part to increase such recruitment and retention. In what follows a brief literature review of the connection between S-L and retention. The treatment and survey measurement instruments are presented. Results follow, and then discussion and conclusions.


The general positive cognitive and affective impacts of S-L on students, faculty, institution, and community are perhaps best discussed in Eyler and Giles2 and Astin et al.3. The idea of implementing S-L on a broad scale in the college was motivated by the positive benefits shown in these studies on learning subject matter, tolerance for diversity, personal development, interpersonal development, and community-to-college connections, self-efficacy. In addition, recruitment and retention were motivating factors, and these are the focus of this particular study.

Duffy, J., & Barrington, L., & Heredia, M. (2009, June), Recruitment, Retention, And Service Learning In Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5708

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