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Stickiness of Nontraditional Students in Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session


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Educational Research and Methods

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William Barrett Corley University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

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William B. Corley, M.S., is the graduate research assistant on this project. He is an experimental psychology (cognitive concentration) graduate student with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at University of Louisville. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in experimental psychology with a cognitive psychology concentration. His background includes several educational research projects and extensive training in statistical methods.

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Jaqi C. McNeil University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

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J.C. McNeil is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at University of Louisville. Contact email:

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Previous literature has proposed the metric of “stickiness” to describe how well certain disciplines attract and retain their students. A common concern for many academic departments, engineering included, is student recruitment and retention. Additionally, retention of underrepresented minority groups and women in engineering is of particular concern. However, stickiness, as it relates to nontraditional students has not been explored. Examining the metric, with regard to additional sub-populations, could provide support for the use of such a metric in comparing the different disciplines within engineering. Beyond providing additional support for the possible validity of stickiness, this research could help provide additional information about the sub-divisions of engineering and why some tend to be stickier than others. Additionally, an understanding of group differences for stickiness within sub-disciplines could provide additional information about how certain sub-populations feel niched within their major; thus providing additional information about how we can support said sub-populations.

According to Ohland and colleagues (2012), the stickiness of a discipline is calculated by dividing the number of graduated students by the total number of students that ever declared a major in that discipline over a given period of time (Ne) and can be expressed as a percentage. For example, if 1,000 students declare a major in electrical engineering over a six-year period and 550 of them graduate, the stickiness for electrical engineering would be 55%. Given the time-dependence of this metric, this would also allow future research to explore the fluidity of stickiness within the different sub-disciplines of engineering.

The research questions for this project will be examined through the Multi-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD). The MIDFIELD database contains information for almost one million students who have ever declared a major in engineering since 1996, allowing for a longitudinal examination of stickiness to assess the stability of the metric for both traditional and nontraditional students. Beyond the stability assessment for stickiness, MIDFIELD is also well-suited for discerning the answers to several other research questions, particularly as it relates to nontraditional students.

Corley, W. B., & McNeil, J. C. (2017, June), Stickiness of Nontraditional Students in Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28847

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