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Successes and Difficulties Experienced by Engineering Transfer Students at a Large Public University

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering/Engineering Technolgy Transfer Issues: Two-year College to Four-year College

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Susan P. Gentry University of California, Davis Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Susan P. Gentry is a Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment in the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of California, Davis. In her current position at UC Davis, she is integrating computational modules into the undergraduate and graduate materials curriculum. She is specifically interested in students’ computational literacy and life-long learning of computational materials science tools.

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Colleen Elizabeth Bronner University of California, Davis

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Colleen Bronner is faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of California, Davis. She has a Ph.D. in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering from the University at Buffalo, where she also earned a Environmental Engineering and a M.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Her current research interests include inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering, effectiveness of active learning strategies, and engineering in PK-12 education.

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Jennifer H Choi University of California, Davis

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Jennifer Choi is currently a Lecturer with potential for security of employment (LPSOE) in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at UC Davis. In addition to teaching core undergraduate courses, Jennifer is aimed at integrating engineering design principles and hands-on experiences throughout the curriculum. She has interests in engineering education, curricular innovation, as well as impacting the community through increased K-12 STEM awareness and education. Prior to joining UC Davis, Jennifer taught in the BME Department at Rutgers University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC. She received her doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tufts University, M.S. degree from Syracuse University, and B.S. degree from Cornell University.

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Jason White University of California, Davis

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Dr. Jason R. White is a Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Davis. Dr. White has been a faculty member at UC Davis since 2015, and was awarded the AIChE Professor of the Year Award for 2015 - 2016 by the UC Davis AIChE Chapter.

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An important pathway for low-income and first-generation students is matriculation from local community colleges. At the study institution, transfer students represent approximately 30 percent of incoming undergraduates, one of the largest proportion of low-income undergraduates among the nation’s research institutions. These transfer students often report difficulties in their transition from their community college to the university. Traditionally, they transfer to the study institution at the beginning of the junior year, taking full course-loads of classes on a quarter system. To succeed, students must adjust quickly to the new schedule and expectations, while also trying to build a new community of peers.

We investigated the barriers to transfer student success in the College of Engineering at the study institution, so that future efforts to support this population will be aligned with students’ experiences. Survey data was evaluated as part of the study, comparing the responses of traditional and transfer students in their junior and senior years at the host institution. The questions addressed factors such as student satisfaction with their GPA and the frequency of office hour attendance. The second part of the study involved a set of focus groups with transfer students currently enrolled at the study’s institution. These students answered questions about their expectations for academic success after transitioning from their community college, differences in their community at their community college versus the study institution, and challenges that they have faced during their transition. We identified six theme areas from our study:

1. Supportive academic advising at the study institution, 2. Sufficient academic preparation except MATLAB proficiency, 3. Changing from a “pro-learning” to a “grade-crazy” environment, 4. Adapting to different relationships with instructors, 5. The necessity of building “social capital”, and 6. A lack of collaborative space at the four year institution.

The information collected was used to identify gaps in support for these transfer students at the study institution.

We hypothesize that developing new support services and programs that address the identified thematic areas for these students will increase their chances for a successful transition to the study institution. In Fall 2017, we are piloting interventions including a MATLAB crash course for incoming engineering transfer students and a “connection” group for incoming Civil and Environmental Engineering transfer students. These interventions address concerns about academic preparation and connecting students to faculty, on-campus resources, and other students.

Gentry, S. P., & Bronner, C. E., & Choi, J. H., & White, J. (2018, June), Successes and Difficulties Experienced by Engineering Transfer Students at a Large Public University Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31029

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