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Success Factors for Minorities in Engineering: Analysis of Focus Group Mini-Surveys

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jacqueline Fleming Ph.D. National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering

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Jacqueline Fleming is a psychologist, author, and independent researcher based in Pearland, Texas. She received her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University in psychology and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in Personality and Development, and was a Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute. She was an Associate Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University, while a consulting psychologist in New York City where she was President of the Motivation Research Corporation. She served in a number of positions at historically Black Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, including Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology, Associate Professor of Education, Learning Specialist, Retention Officer, Associate Director of Student Success Services, and Director of the General University Academic Center. She is currently principal investigator for the National Science Foundation sponsored study of “Success Factors for Minorities in Engineering” with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME). Her 1984 book Blacks in College, earned three honorary degrees. Her recent book, Enhancing the Performance and Retention of Minorities: What We Can Learn from Program Evaluation, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2012. Her forthcoming book is entitled When Underprepared Students Stay in College. Fleming has had extensive experience consulting to major advisory boards, such as the Educational Testing Service, the College Board, the National Institutes of Health, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, the National Research Council, the Houston Annenberg Challenge, the Evaluation Task Force for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Fleming has also served as Consulting Psychologist and Senior Research Associate to the United Negro College Fund.

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Focus group conversations were conducted with minority students from eleven engineering schools . This study focuses on analysis of a mini-survey administered during the focus group session in order to augment group discussions, which can be dominated by strong personalities thereby skewing the results. One hundred and forty-four students, comprised of 51.4% African American, 36.8% Hispanic, and 11.8% of Other ethnicities, completed three open-ended questions on -- how they became interested in engineering, what it takes to be successful in the engineering program, and their advice to incoming minority students. A fourth question required their assessment of the effectiveness of seven academic support program components. Major student responses were coded for thematic content or tabulated, and then entered into regression equations against four measures of achievement, including students' GPA, longevity in the program, average SAT/ACT scores of minority students in the school of matriculation, and their school's effectiveness in graduating minority students as assessed by 6 year graduation rates. Responses positively associated with achievement indices were then factor analyzed to isolate common clusters associated with success in engineering. While the most frequent student responses to the four questions were skill in math, dedication, focus, and study groups, respectively, the five emerging factors associated with greater student success were: (1) Participation in effective program components that provide practical engineering experience -- project or problem-based courses, research experience, and industry internships; (2) A burning desire to become an engineer and reap its economic career benefits; (3) Taking advantage of all institutional resources provided; (4) Combining motivation and dedication with effective time management; and (5) Involvement in Minority Engineering Programs (MEP). The results are noteworthy in suggesting that the first and most foremost success factor for minorities in engineering is exposure to engineering itself.

Fleming, J. (2016, June), Success Factors for Minorities in Engineering: Analysis of Focus Group Mini-Surveys Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25948

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