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Student Retention Dialogue: Focus Group Outcomes

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Knowing Students: Diversity & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1040.1 - 8.1040.8



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Paper Authors

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Joanne Hood

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Elizabeth Bahe

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Fonda Swimmer

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Ingrid St. Omer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1430

Student Retention Dialogue: Focus Group Outcomes

Ingrid St. Omer, Joanne Hood, Fonda Swimmer Northern Arizona University

Elizabeth Bahe Scottsdale Community College

Abstract In the Fall of 2001, the Admissions, Recruitment and Retention committee at Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) College of Engineering & Technology (CET) sought to begin to collect data regarding student persistence. NAU has demonstrated a strong commitment to undergraduate education and diversity. According to the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administrators (NAMEPA) 2001 Data Book, NAU ranks second in enrollment of Native American students in programs granting Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. At present, the population of Hispanic students within the College is approximately 6% and women represent 15% overall. The preliminary data is based on both formal and informal requests for information from students. According to current NAU policy, students are not required to participate in an “exit interview” with their advisor or department when they change majors or leave the university. A change of major form only seeks to ensure that the student is accepted into the new department and assigned an advisor. Thus, only anecdotal information was available since no formal mechanism existed to collect this data. In order to obtain data on why students leave the College, we undertook two initiatives. Students were contacted via e-mail to ask if they would provide the reason(s) why they left the majors. Additional information came from focus groups conducted with current students during the Fall 2001 semester. The participating students were very candid and specific, providing information on why they have persisted, as well as the reasons why other students they know have left the College. The students also offered suggestions on administrative and academic issues that may increase retention rates. As a result of the student input, the College has implemented a series of programs entitled “CET Connects” to try and improve student persistence. The content and reception of the programs by the student body will also be discussed.

Introduction Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a premier residential university with a long- standing commitment to undergraduate teaching. Strong scholarly activities are emphasized to ensure excellence in teaching and a dynamic intellectual community. On and off-campus programs enroll approximately 19,000 students. Northern Arizona University’s commitment to diversity is exemplified in its continued efforts to expose students, faculty and staff to diverse cultures, lifestyles and values. Since 1997, the total student population (Fall 1997-2001) has shown a steady increase in the percentage of ethnic minority students (African-American, Asian- American, Hispanic, and Native American students). In 2001, the percentage of ethnic minorities at NAU increased from 18.6% in 1997 to 21.1%. NAU is centrally located relative to several Indian nations, including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Nation, the Hualapai Tribe and others.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Hood, J., & Bahe, E., & Swimmer, F., & St. Omer, I. (2003, June), Student Retention Dialogue: Focus Group Outcomes Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12008

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