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Special Session: What Works to Retain Students in Chemical Engineering Programs

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Conference

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: What Works to Retain Students in Chemical Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count

16

Page Numbers

22.1315.1 - 22.1315.16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/18381

Download Count

25

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Paper Authors

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Adrienne R. Minerick Michigan Technological University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2382-7831

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Adrienne Minerick is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech having moved from Mississippi State University in Jan 2010, where she was a tenured Associate Professor. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 2003 and B.S. from Michigan Technological University in 1998. Adrienne’s research interests include electrokinetics and the development of biomedical microdevices. She earned a 2007 NSF CAREER award; her group has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Lab on a Chip, and had an AIChE Journal cover. She is an active mentor of undergraduate researchers and served as co-PI on an NSF REU site. Research within her Medical micro-Device Engineering Research Laboratory (M.D. – ERL) also inspires the development of Desktop Experiment Modules (DEMos) for use in chemical engineering classrooms or as outreach activities in area schools. Adrienne has been an active member of ASEE’s WIED, ChED, and NEE leadership teams since 2003.

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Donald P. Visco Tennessee Technological University

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Susan M. Montgomery University of Michigan

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Susan Montgomery is Lecturer IV and program advisor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She also serves as ASEE campus representative. She earned a B.S.E.Ch.E. from the University of Michigan and M.S.E.Ch.E. and Ph.D.Ch.E. from Princeton University.

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Daina Briedis Michigan State University

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Daina Briedis is a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University. Dr. Briedis has been involved in several areas of education research including student retention, curriculum redesign, and the use of technology in the classroom. She is a co-PI on two NSF grants in the areas of integration of computation in engineering curricula and in developing comprehensive strategies to retain early engineering students. She is active nationally and internationally in engineering accreditation and is a Fellow of ABET.

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Neeraj Buch Michigan State University

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Neeraj Buch is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University. He is also the Director of Cornerstone Engineering and Residential Experience program at Michigan State University. He earned his M.S. degree in pavement engineering in 1988 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his Ph.D. in pavement and materials engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station, in 1995. Dr. Buch began his academic career at Michigan State University in 1996.
Dr. Buch has worked on numerous projects funded by state highway agencies (MDOT, CDOT, South Dakota DOT), the FHWA, SHRP II, NSF and the NCHRP. Dr. Buch has performed research on characterization of Portland cement concrete mixtures and their impact on pavement design and performance, pavement response and performance modeling, and pavement preservation. Recent research includes the investigation of design and construction factors on the response and performance of new flexible and rigid pavements (LTPP program), the effectives of precast panels as a rapid repair alternative, the impact of dowel misalignment on the performance of concrete pavements, evaluation of the new ME-PDG for the state of Michigan and the characterization of thermal properties for the various aggregate lithologies in Michigan.
Dr. Buch teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in concrete materials and pavement engineering. He is also involved in teaching short courses on pavement design and rehabilitation and pavement materials for practicing engineers in Michigan. Throughout his career Dr. Buch has consistently been recognized for his sustained excellence in teaching. He has received several teaching awards at the college, university, and state level. He is a co-PI on two National Science Foundation grants in the areas of integration of computation in engineering curricula and in the area of retention of early engineering students.
He is a member of TRB committees AFN20 (Propoerties of Concrete), AFD50 (Rigid Pavements) and AFD70 (Pavement Rehabilitation), and the AASHTO TIG on Precast Concrete Pavements. He is also a member of the ASCE/T&DI highway pavements committee, ASCE LTPP Task Committee and the chairperson of ACI committee 325 on rigid pavements. Dr. Buch was recently (2009) elected as a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute. He serves on the board of the International Society Concrete Pavements (ISCP). He is also an instructor for the Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) Overlays: State of The Technology Workshops sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Concrete Institute.

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Jon Sticklen Michigan State University

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Jon Sticklen is the Director of the Center for Engineering Education Research at Michigan State University. Dr. Sticklen is also Director of Applied Engineering Sciences, an undergraduate bachelor of science degree program in the MSU College of Engineering. He also is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Sticklen has lead a laboratory in knowledge-based systems focused on task specific approaches to problem solving. Over the last decade, Dr. Sticklen has pursued engineering education research focused on early engineering; his current research is supported by NSF/DUE and NSF/CISE.

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Colleen A. McDonough Michigan State University

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Colleen A. McDonough is a graduate research assistant at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. She is the coordinator of two component projects of a National Science Foundation grant focusing on retention issues and engaging early engineering students, and also serves as an academic advisor. McDonough earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from William Smith College and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. McDonough is currently a third year doctoral student in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education program at Michigan State. Her areas of interest include educational theory, student development and engineering education.

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Patrick Walton Michigan State University

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S. Patrick Walton is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University. He received his B.ChE. from Georgia Tech, where he began working in biomedical research in the Cardiovascular Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. He then attended MIT where he earned his M.S. and Sc.D. in Chemical Engineering while working jointly with researchers at the Shriners Burns Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Upon completion of his doctoral studies, he joined the Stanford Genome Technology Center, receiving an NIH Kirschstein post-doctoral fellowship. He joined Michigan State University in 2004, and his research is focused on the engineering of nucleic acid technologies through mechanism-based design. In addition, Professor Walton received MSU's Teacher-Scholar award in 2010 and was a 2010 - 2011 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow.

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Amanda M. Portis Michigan State University

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Eldred H. Chimowitz University of Rochester

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Eldred Chimowitz is a Professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester. He teaches courses in process design and control to undergraduates and statistical mechanics and thermodynamics to graduate students. He is the author of a textbook titled: "Introduction to Critical Phenomena in Fluids" which was published by Oxford University Press in 2005. It was nominated for an American Association of American Publishers Award for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing.
Jennifer Condit who helped prepare this paper is the Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Program Coordinator at the University of Rochester. Part of her responsibilities include keeping a close eye on retention and enrollment issues for the program. She received a B.A. in English from Ithaca College.

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Willie (Skip) E. Rochefort Oregon State University

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Skip Rochefort is currently an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and the Director of OSU Precollege Programs (http://oregonstate.edu/precollege) and the Center for Outreach in Science and Engineering for Youth (COSEY) at Oregon State University. He has degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts (B.S., 1976), Northwestern University (M.S. 1978) and the University of California, San Diego (Ph.D., 1986). He has held several industrial research positions (Dow Chemical, Kodak, AT&T Bell Labs), and since 1993 he has been on the faculty in the OSU Chemical Engineering Department. He is an OSU Honors College faculty and has been recognized for his teaching and advising activities by ASEE, AIChE, the College of Engineering, and Oregon State University. His research interest for the last 35 years has been in all areas of polymer engineering and science, and for the last 18 years in engineering education. His passion is K-12 outreach for the recruitment and retention of women and minorities into engineering, with the current focus on introducing engineering science at the middle school and high school levels. His K-12 outreach activities can be found at http://cbee.oregonstate.edu/education/.

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Keith L. Levien Oregon State University

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Keith Levien has an Engineering Science degree from Iowa State University (B.S.) and degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (B.S. and Ph.D.). Between chemical engineering degrees he worked for four years at the Warrensville Research Center of SOHIO (now BP). His research areas are reaction engineering, process control, and supercritical fluid technology. He has taught process dynamics, control and reaction engineering since coming to Oregon State University in 1985 and has twice served as acting Chair of the Chemical Engineering Department. In 2001 he introduced the use of the LEGO® RCX microprocessor for data acquisition, along with MATLAB, in a project-based design and programming course called “Engineering Problem Solving and Computations”. This course is now required for all first-year students in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering.

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Nimir Elbashir Texas A&M University

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Dr. Nimir O. Elbashir is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University, Qatar and has over fifteen years of research and teaching experience. His research activities are mainly focused on design of advanced reactors & catalysis for the Gas-to-Liquid technology, petrochemical industry and environmental processes. He held several industry positions in research and development (R&D), and business development in addition to several academic positions before joining TAMUQ. Dr. Elbashir holds several U.S. and European patents with more than fifty scientific publications in forms of journal articles, conference proceedings, and special industry seminars. Dr. Elbashir completed research studies on design of reactor technology and applied catalysis for several world-leading chemical and petrochemical companies (e.g. BASF Corporation, SABIC R&T, and Nippon Oil Corporation). The scholarly of his research activities has been recognized by the Gordon Research Conference, BASF Corporation, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

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Jennifer Condit University of Rochester

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Stephen Lindeman

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Abstract

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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