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Student Social Capital And Retention In The College Of Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Knowing Students: Diversity & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1162.1 - 10.1162.18



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

Student Social Capital and Retention in the College of Engineering

Abstract An investigation of relationships between student social capital and retention in the engineering program and the use of the concept of social capital as a framework to understand the retention of engineering students are discussed. The concept of social capital has been utilized in investigations of economic productivity and innovation of corporations, drop-out rates in high school, and academic performance both in high school and in college. For the purposes of this study, social capital consists of social networks, social norms, and the value of these networks and norms for achieving mutual goals. Previous research suggests that the peer group and faculty support are both important factors in student retention and academic success. It has even been suggested that the peer group is the single most influential factor on personal development in college. Student social capital was assessed in one-on-one and focus group interviews with both students that have left engineering and students that remain. The focus of the interviews was on student interactions with peers, faculty, and teaching assistants, and students’ integration and perception of the engineering culture. Student responses indicate that social capital does play a role in the retention of engineering students. Both students that remain in engineering and those that have left reported that positive interactions with peers, faculty, and advisors were important to retention. Both groups indicated that few opportunities exist in the lecture setting to interact with other students, but the dorms provide opportunities to develop relationships with other students. Both groups voiced frustration with mostly poor interactions with faculty and advisors. Similarly, both groups indicated that their sense of community in freshman engineering courses is low, and they are frustrated with the competitive norms in engineering. Only those students that left engineering voiced dissatisfaction with teaching methods that encourage plug and chug problem solving, characterized by little discussion or opportunities to ask questions about assumptions or approaches. Recommendations are made to address student concerns that include active and cooperative learning approaches, and the development of learning communities.

Introduction In today’s technological society the need for engineers in the workplace is at an all time high. In the next ten years it is estimated that the United States will need to train an additional 1.9 million workers in the sciences [1], a significant portion of which will need to be engineers. Not only it is important to train larger numbers of engineers, it is also necessary to attract a more prevalent representation of women and minorities in the engineering workforce. Identification of this need is certainly not new or unique to this study, yet simply highlights the need to be interested in the retention of engineering students. Government agencies, universities, and private companies have invested heavily in not only attracting more engineers, but attempting to attract and retain a more diverse workforce in the engineering field.

Proceedings of the2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Brown, S. (2005, June), Student Social Capital And Retention In The College Of Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14419

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015