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Returning Students in Engineering Education: Making a Case for “Experience Capital”

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Methods, Techniques, and New Programs in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1253.1 - 22.1253.18



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Paper Authors


Michele L. Strutz Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Michele L. Strutz is the first NSF Graduate Research Fellow (2009) in Engineering Education. She is an Engineering Education doctoral candidate, with a secondary doctoral focus in Gifted and Talented Education, at Purdue University. Michele's research interests include stEm talent development and identification. Prior to completing her Master’s Degrees in Gifted and Talented Education and in Curriculum and Instruction, Michele worked as an engineer for 13 years in Laser Jet Printer product development and marketing at Hewlett Packard Co., computer systems design at Arthur Andersen & Co., sulfuric acid plant engineering at Monsanto, and traffic engineering with the City of Cincinnati. Her positions in the high-tech field stemmed from her undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Vanderbilt University. Contact information:

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James Edwin Cawthorne Jr. Purdue University, West Lafayette


Daniel Michael Ferguson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Daniel M. Ferguson is a graduate student in the Engineering Education Program at Purdue University. Prior to coming to Purdue he was Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ohio Northern University. Before assuming that position he was Associate Director of the Inter-professional Studies Program and Senior Lecturer at Illinois Institute of Technology and involved in research in service learning, assessment processes and interventions aimed at improving learning objective attainment. Prior to his University assignments he was the Founder and CEO of The EDI Group, Ltd. and The EDI Group Canada, Ltd, independent professional services companies specializing in B2B electronic commerce and electronic data interchange. The EDI Group companies conducted market research, offered educational seminars and conferences and published The Journal of Electronic Commerce. He was also a Vice President at the First National Bank of Chicago, where he founded and managed the bank’s market leading professional Cash Management Consulting Group, initiated the bank’s non credit service product management organization and profit center profitability programs and was instrumental in the EDI/EFT payment system implemented by General Motors.

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Mark T. Carnes Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Mark Carnes is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and is currently a doctoral student and a future faculty fellow in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Before coming to Purdue, he spent over 30 years as an electronics designer of control and power conversion circuits. He received an MS from the University of Michigan (1982) and a BS from the University of Notre Dame (1975), both in Electrical Engineering.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by over $11.4 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and multiple conference Best Paper awards. Dr. Ohland is Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and an At-Large member the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Returning Students in Engineering Education: Making a Case for “Experience Capital”Students returning to college are not generally studied, where most of the research on non-traditional students is focused on individuals returning to earn their undergraduate degree. Thereare, however, many students returning to receive graduate degrees as they pursue new directionsin life by interest or economic necessity. Undergraduate students with experience have cleareducational related goals, practical approaches to problem-solving, and high learning motivation.Returning graduate students are expected to model similar behaviors. These individuals bring alifetime of personal and professional expertise, which we identify as “experience capital.”A review of the literature reveals that capital has been pondered since early western philosophersconsidered the concept of social capital in terms of „community governance‟. Others creditDewey with the first use of the term „social capital‟. Since then, development of other capitalsinclude human, cultural, and symbolic. Human capital is viewed as knowledge, skills, andattributes; cultural capital as an indicator of class position acquired by family and education ; andsymbolic as the prestige, recognition, and fame. Today, social capital is viewed as the networks,relationships, and connections of influence and support. Experience capital is the partial unionof social, human, cultural, and symbolic capital, which individuals develop from their personaland professional experiences as they progress through life.This is an exploratory study capturing the perceptions of “experience capital” of individuals withseveral years of professional experience in their discipline returning for a doctoral degree inengineering education. The research question this study addresses is: what “experience capital”do returning students bring to an engineering education doctoral program? The participantswill be interviewed; open coding will be used to identify common themes. The results of thisqualitative study will position the experiences of the participants at the partial union of social,human, cultural, and symbolic capital, in a space called experience capital.

Strutz, M. L., & Cawthorne, J. E., & Ferguson, D. M., & Carnes, M. T., & Ohland, M. W. (2011, June), Returning Students in Engineering Education: Making a Case for “Experience Capital” Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18735

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