June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.1315.1 - 22.1315.16
Special Session: What Works to Retain Students in Chemical EngineeringProgramsStudent retention is an important issue that every department and college must face,especially as more states link their appropriation to student retention rates (and shiftfrom entering student head count). Some examples of topics include: Are there factorswhich contribute to the retention of students of differing demographics (gender, race /ethnicity, first generation college students, etc.)? How do course-level aspects,especially at the Freshman/Sophomore level, contribute to retention or attrition? Whatapproaches most enthuse students to continue to study chemical engineering?Accordingly, this session contains submissions from those individuals involved inretention activities at their school. Detailed studies and anecdotal observations are bothincluded in the compiled abstracts below.Creating a Caring Community in Large Program It is a challenge for many students at large universities to feel a sense ofcommunity. We currently have close to 500 chemical engineering students, including200 sophomores, and over 150 students in both our junior and senior classes. The goalof our undergraduate support program is to develop a caring community that helpssupport our students throughout their academic careers and beyond. In this paper wedescribe the role of faculty, upper level students, student groups and alumni inwelcoming our students and providing them with support in both academic and careerrelated matters. In addition, we describe various activities meant to provide individualencouragement and recognition, to help our students feel a part of a caring andsupportive community.Effective Educational Practice for Student Retention: The Personal Touch About 700 first-year students declare engineering as their intended major in ourcollege annually. Students may declare a discipline or “no preference,” but are notadmitted until they satisfy certain course requirements at specified levels ofachievement. The challenge faced by our faculty is how to attract students specifically tochemical engineering and keep them there when facing such a large number of potentialintenders. In particular, we are interested in retaining those highly qualified students wholeave engineering for other pre-professional majors. Causes of attrition from STEMmajors have been studied extensively and are fairly well known. The noted NationalSurvey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and other related reports encourage institutionsto critically examine practices that could engage or alienate students. Five benchmarksof effective education practice are used in the NSSE study, and two deal directly withvarious aspects of the work described in this paper—student-faculty interactions and asupportive campus environment. These studies also place special emphasis onbeginning students and emphasize the importance of establishing positive interactionswith students as soon as they step over the threshold of the university campus. As partof a larger multi-college, multi-institution research project on retention, we havedeveloped a retention program that fits within the college’s broader strategy on studentretention, yet allows us to appeal directly to those students who wish to pursue chemicalengineering as a major. The program has been developed to not only address besteducational practices, but is responsive to student and faculty evaluations, studentculture, and faculty workload. The approach includes both social and personalinteractions between students and faculty and is targeted at the qualified students wholeave engineering because they perceive it as sterile and uncaring. Early results showboth that the program is viewed positively by students and that retention rates areimproving.Text Messaging as a Tool for Enhancing Student-Instructor Interactions and IncreasingStudent Retention Net generation students are more interconnected than any generation to date.From a variety of social networking opportunities to the pervasive use of mobile devices,students are fully comfortable interacting with people that, in some cases, they havenever even met face-to-face. Current modes of communication among instructors,however, still default to, in some order, face-to-face meetings, email, and phone calls. Assuch, there may be a disconnect in the ways students would prefer to interact with theirinstructors and the ways offered by the instructor. It would seem, then, that to maximizestudent engagement, retention, and support of student learning, instructors shouldinvestigate using other communication modes for interacting with their students.It is well-established that students who feel a personal connection with their instructor,i.e., greater teacher immediacy, are more likely to persevere through the challenges thatinevitably arise during their undergraduate careers. The goal of our project has been to test two hypotheses: i) that students willprefer to interact with their course instructor via texting, as compared to othermeans such as email, phone calls, and office hours; and ii) that students who text theirinstructor will also be more likely to interact using more traditional methods.Perhaps if a student makes initial contact with the instructor via a method with which thestudent is most comfortable, then the student is more likely to engage further with theinstructor through means, such as office hours, with which the student is lesscomfortable. We are testing these hypotheses during Fall, 2010 in CHE 201, Materialand Energy Balances. Because of the newness of the material, the relative difficulty ofthe problems, and the relative youth of the students, this class provides an ideal settingfor testing whether new methods for interacting can improve the frequency and utility ofstudent-instructor interactions and, in turn, improve student performance, learning, andretention. Data to date suggest a few interesting trends and caveats. First, given the optionof using paper or texting for classroom assessments, students overwhelmingly, andsomewhat surprisingly, choose paper. Perhaps with their pencils/pens already in handfor note-taking, paper submissions are more convenient. Moreover, and againunexpectedly, early evidence suggests that students will only text their professors as alast resort but nonetheless like having the option to do so. The occasions wherestudents have texted outside of class have all been due to an emergency that was goingto keep the student out of class. In all of these cases, texting was only tried afteremailing, calling, and, in one case, asking a classmate to deliver the message.Nonetheless, one student commented (paraphrasing), “Thank you for responding to mytext. I was having a hard time and that really helped.” This reinforces that texting may bea way to reach and retain students who might otherwise not seek out help and guidance.We expect to further elaborate these points as we analyze additional data in concert withcourse performance metrics.Methods and Results: Improving Student Enrollment and Retention in theUndergraduate Chemical Engineering Program at the University of XXXXXXX Concerned with decreasing enrollments in the chemical engineering major theDepartment of Chemical Engineering at the University of XXXXXX set out to publicizeand educate the student body at the university about the program. From a pedagogicpoint of view we instituted a new Green Engineering Cluster of courses intended toeducate students in the opportunities afforded by the profession. A few years ago webegan offering a new introductory, non-calculus based freshman engineering coursecalled Green Energy. Topics in the course have included: i) fossil fuels, ii) energyconservation, iii) fuel cells, iv) solar cells, and v) environmental economics. These areashave been carefully chosen to reflect the University of XXXXXX’s Energy Initiative. Eachtopic is taught by a different faculty member which means that the course is fast-pacedand students have the opportunity to meet many of the department faculty early in theirstay at the university. This often leads to further opportunities for students to pursueinternships with faculty as early as the summer following the freshmen year. The course has been a tremendous success. It now draws more than half of itsstudents from outside the department, many coming from social science andhumanities disciplines and is widely considered to be one of the most successfulcourses in the freshman curriculum. Enrollment and retention of undergraduatestudents in chemical engineering have also improved enormously as aconsequence of this effort-see the data in the attached two tables. Our data showsthat enrollment in the course has increased from approximately ten to seventy studentsover the past four years and freshmen-sophomore chemical engineering retention rateshave reached an all-time high during this time. The course outline and teachingmaterials can be seen by visiting the department’s website (www.che.xxxxx.edu).Recruiting and Retaining Students in Chemical Engineering Through First YearExperience Courses and Outreach Activities The Chemical Engineering Department at XXXXXX University recentlycombined into the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering(CBEE), offering ABET accredited BS degrees in Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering,and Environmental Engineering. As with many programs, our student numbers arerapidly growing, with the first and second year class sizes growing by approximately25% per year over the last 3-4 years to current levels of 180-200. Our student populationis also approximately 35-40% women, which is by far the highest in the college ofengineering. to a current level of approximately 180-200 students. This has led to asubstantial increase in the number of students in the First Year Experience courses. Thegoal of the first year courses is to both provide career guidance to the students lookingfor the correct career path, as well as personal attention they need to make thesedecisions. The retention activities include two first year courses that are heavily projectoriented, an active and supportive CBEE Student Club (AIChE Student Chapter), K-12outreach activities with first year students acting as mentors for middle and high schoolstudents, and a summer research experience for up to 20 first year students (program is12 years old). The successes and challenges of these activities will be discussed.A Program to Recruit and Retain Students to the Chemical Engineering MajorThe Experience of the Chemical Engineering Program of XXXXXXXX XXXXXX University opened a campus in the Education City of XXXX Foundationin 2003 by offering bachelor of science degrees in four engineering majors; chemical,electrical, mechanical and petroleum. The curricula offered at XXXXXX materiallyidentical to the ones offered at the main campus in XXXXXXX and courses are taught inEnglish in a coeducational setting. The reputation for excellence is the same, as is thecommitment to training engineers equipped to lead the next generation of engineeringdiscovery. XXXXXX has world-class natural gas reserves, as well as significant reservesof petroleum and it host the most advanced existing plants and refineries in Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technology, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), in addition to several chemicalsand petrochemicals plants. Nevertheless, our program has experienced challenges inrecruiting students to the Chemical Engineering major as well as retaining number of ourfreshmen despite the high demands for chemical engineers in XXXXX and the Gulfregion. The lost of students in the freshmen and the sophomore years exceeded 30%from original intake between 2004 to 2007, majority switched major to the PetroleumEngineering followed the Mechanical Engineering and the Electrical Engineering majors.Students who requested to change major attributed their decisions to one or more of thefollowings: the difficulty of the Chemical Engineering courses compared to the othermajors (specifically compared to Petroleum Engineering), lack of interest to work inrefineries or chemical plants, parents request to change majors, and others. Beginningof 2008, the Chemical Engineering department developed a Retention and RecruitmentProgram aiming at educating XXXXX students about the Chemical Engineering field.This program starts form the freshmen year and continues till the sophomore year. Theprogram also involves orientation sessions to high school students as well as to theirparents. In addition, the Chemical Engineering professors participated in the teaching ofthe fundamental engineering courses to the freshmen class (ENGR 111 and ENGR 112courses). In these classes, we provided special sessions about the role of chemicalengineering in our life under the slogan that “the Chemical Engineering has wider careerchoices than virtually any other major”. Industry experts and government institutionshave also participated in this program. This program positively impacted both ourrecruitment and retention efforts (from spring 2008 to Fall 2010 we have achieved anincrease of about 30% in students intake from the freshmen class while the number ofstudents switched major from chemical engineering dropped to below 8%). This paperwill give the details of this program as well as it will describe the development of itsdifferent phases.
Minerick, A. R., & Visco, D. P., & Montgomery, S. M., & Briedis, D., & Buch, N., & Sticklen, J., & McDonough, C. A., & Walton, P., & Portis, A. M., & Chimowitz, E. H., & Rochefort, W. S. E., & Levien, K. L., & Elbashir, N., & Condit, J., & Lindeman, S. (2011, June), Special Session: What Works to Retain Students in Chemical Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18381
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