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Starter or Joiner, Market or Socially-Oriented: Predicting Career Choice Among Undergraduate Engineering and Business Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division – Epicenter Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1393.1 - 26.1393.29



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Paper Authors


Florian Michael Lintl Stanford University

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Florian is studying Environmental Planning and Ecological Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). His majors are Sustainable City Development, Renewable Energy, International Land Use Planning and Environmental Economics. He is also participant in the Entrepreneurial Qualification Program "Manage&More". This is a program of the Center for Innovation and Business Creation at the TU Munich (“UnternehmerTUM”) which supports Innovation and Start-Up Projects. While at UnternehmerTUM, Florian was involved in a marketing project for a tourism startup (Social Tourist) and consulting for another startup that monitors super lightweight structures (fos4x).
He joined the Designing Education Lab to learn more about entrepreneurial decision making for profit or non-profit organizations and social entrepreneurship in general.

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Qu Jin Stanford University

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Qu Jin is a postdoctoral scholar in the Designing Education Lab at Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University in 2013, M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University in 2009, and B.S. degree in Material Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University in China in 2007. Her research interests focus on educational studies that can help improve teaching, learning, and educational policy decision makings using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her current research project in National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) focuses on measuring engineering students’ entrepreneurial interests and related individual characteristics. Her Ph.D. dissertation involved using statistical modeling methods to explain and predict engineering students’ success outcomes, such as retention, academic performance, and graduation.

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Shannon Gilmartin Stanford University Orcid 16x16


Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a research scientist in the Designing Education Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. She is also a member of the research team in the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Helen earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her PhD in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Stanford University in 1998. Her current research interests include: 1) engineering and entrepreneurship education; 2) the pedagogy of ePortfolios and reflective practice in higher education; and 3) reimagining the traditional academic transcript.

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Mark Schar Stanford University

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Mark recently completed a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering/Design at Stanford University. The focus of his research can broadly be described as “pivot thinking,” the cognitive aptitudes and abilities that encourage innovation, and the tension between design engineering and business management cognitive styles. Mark is a Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Stanford University and teaches the course ME310X Product Management.

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2003 Dr. Sheppard was named co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to form the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), along with faculty at the University of Washington, Colorado School of Mines, and Howard University. More recently (2011) she was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Entrepreneurial Interests and Characteristics of Engineering and Business Undergraduate Students Who Are Interested in For- Profit and Non-Profit OrganizationsEntrepreneurship and innovation are seen as important elements to economic growth and newemployment. In times of debates over climate change and global crises the importance ofentrepreneurship and innovation and their potential to create value for society have increased(US National Advisory Board on Impact Investing, 2014). To enable engineers to approach theseproblems in the for-profit or the non-profit sector engineers need not only basic business skills,but they also need to be able to recognize and seize opportunities. To help engineering graduatessucceed in this environment, engineering schools are evaluating the needs of their engineeringstudents, and are taking action to establish curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricularprograms and opportunities (Gilmartin, Shartrand, Chen, Estrada, & Sheppard, 2014).When designing these courses and programs, it is important to understand the entrepreneurialinterests and characteristics of the audience, particularly the undergraduate students who choosethe for-profit, as compared with the non-profit sector as their career goal. Gender and otherdemographic characteristics may further differentiate between for-profit and non-profit studententrepreneurship experiences, and represent additional key covariates to consider.Given these propositions, the research questions guiding the present study are: (1) How dostudents with different career goals (start a for-profit organization, start a non-profit organization,join a for-profit organization, and join a non-profit organization) compare on entrepreneurialintent, characteristics and contextual factors? (2) How do entrepreneurial intent, characteristicsand contextual factors vary by discipline (engineering vs. business) and gender among studentswho want to start an organization as compared with those who want to join an organization in thefor-profit or non-profit sector? (3) What are important personal characteristics and contextualfactors that influence students` decision to choose a for-profit or a non-profit career?Study participants included 518 engineering and 471 business undergraduate students from 51U.S. universities and colleges. Data were drawn from a comprehensive survey designed tounderstand entrepreneurship among young, college-going adults. Three categories of factorswere measured in this survey: entrepreneurial interests, personal characteristics, and contexts.Entrepreneurial interest factors included Entrepreneurial Intent, Entrepreneurship Activities, andCareer Goals. Individual characteristic factors included Innovation Orientation, Career Values,Self-Efficacy, Optimism, and Future Orientation. Contextual factors included Family, Friends,Mentoring, Extra-Curricular Activities. Effect sizes and p-values were calculated in comparisonsof student sub-groups. Linear regression was used to examine how personal characteristics andcontextual factors correlate with interest in the for-profit and the non-profit sector.Preliminary results showed that students with an interest in joining or starting a non-profitorganization have lower levels of entrepreneurial intentions than did students aiming for for-profit engagement. Women were more interested in starting or working for a non-profitorganization compared with men. Moreover, mentoring was identified as an important factor forstudents whose career goal was to start or work for a non-profit organization. Results suggestedthat discipline and gender play a role in students’ entrepreneurship interests; implications forcurriculum design will be discussed.ReferenceGilmartin, S., Shartrand, A., Chen, H., Estrada, C., & Sheppard, S. (2014). U.S.-BasedEntrepreneurship Programs for Undergraduate Engineers: Scope, Development, Goals, andPedagogies. Epicenter Technical Brief 1. Stanford, CA and Hadley, MA: National Center forEngineering Pathways to Innovation, p. 9US National Advisory Board on Impact Investing (2014). Private Capital Public Good: HowSmart Federal Policy Can Galvanize Impact Investing – and Why It´s Urgent, p. 9

Lintl, F. M., & Jin, Q., & Gilmartin, S., & Chen, H. L., & Schar, M., & Sheppard, S. (2015, June), Starter or Joiner, Market or Socially-Oriented: Predicting Career Choice Among Undergraduate Engineering and Business Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24730

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