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Student Demographics and Outcomes in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Including Migration between the Disciplines

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Attracting, Developing and Retaining Talented ME Students

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1111.1 - 24.1111.10



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Paper Authors


Marisa K. Orr Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. She completed her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Certificate of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in
engineering, gender equity and diversity, and academic policy.

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Susan M Lord University of San Diego

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Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, engineering student persistence, and student autonomy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is a fellow of the ASEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, on the FIE Steering Committee, and as President of the IEEE Education Society for 2009-2010. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education. She and her coauthors were awarded the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education and the 2011 Best Paper Award for the IEEE Transactions on Education. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China teaching and doing research.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University and Central Queensland University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University and a Professorial Research Fellow at Central Queensland 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 $12.8 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011. Dr. Ohland is past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Richard A. Layton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Student Demographics and Outcomes in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Including their Exchange of StudentsThere is a large amount of overlap in Mechanical (ME) and Aerospace Engineering (Aero)curricula, and yet the student populations look quite different in terms of race and gender. Thisstudy includes institutional data from 11 institutions, all of which offered ME and six of whichoffered Aero over the period 1987-2010. This large sample (over 90,000 first-time-in-collegeengineering students) allows us to adopt an intersectional framework to study race and gendertogether. In this paper, we examine the demographics of students in ME and Aero and their six-year graduation rates. Then we consider the exchange of students between these two similardisciplines and how that impacts graduation rate.Within each racial/ethnic group, men who start in engineering choose Aero and ME at higherrates than women who start in engineering. In Aero, the gender gaps are small to moderateamong White (11.7% of males vs. 10.5% of females), Hispanic (13.3% vs. 12.0%), and Asianstudents (9.3% vs. 6.2%). There is a larger gap between Black men and women choosing Aero(9.4% vs. 3.5%). Mechanical Engineering on the other hand, has large gender gaps within allracial/ethnic groups with more men than women choosing ME (White: 20.6% vs. 11.6%, Black:19.0% vs.10.3%, Hispanic: 17.3% vs. 9.2%, and Asian: 15.1% vs. 8.2%).Considering six-year graduation in ME or Aero, women out persist men in all subgroups exceptAsian Aero students. Overall, graduation rates are lower in Aero than ME. In Aero, six-yeargraduation rates range from 11.2% for Black males to 29.3% for Hispanic females, while in MEthey range from 31.6% for Hispanic males to 47.8% for Asian females.Over 500 students in this study started in Aero but graduated in ME, and 40 started in ME butgraduated in Aero. The switching population from ME to Aero has a higher percentage ofwomen than the starting population of ME and the Aero to ME population has a lowerpercentage of women than the starting population of Aero. While Aero has smaller genderenrollment gaps, ME has smaller enrollment and outcome gaps between racial/ethnic groups.By studying the differences between Aero and ME and the exchange between them, bothdisciplines can learn from each other about how to improve their recruiting and retention ofunderrepresented groups. The forthcoming paper will include further detail as well asimplications for engineering educators and administrators.

Orr, M. K., & Lord, S. M., & Ohland, M. W., & Layton, R. A. (2014, June), Student Demographics and Outcomes in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Including Migration between the Disciplines Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23044

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