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Supplemental Freshman Physics/Chemistry Programs To Support Women In Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1098.1 - 14.1098.11



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Paper Authors


Rachelle Reisberg Northeastern University

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Rachelle Reisberg is Director of Women in Engineering at Northeastern University and Associate Director of the Connections program. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Rice University. She was President of a start-up software company before joining Northeastern.

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Amanda Funai University of Michigan

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Amanda Funai is a PhD graduate student at the University of Michigan. She received her bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2005 from Northeastern University. Amanda was a student-teacher for the Connections Physics Review program during her senior year at Northeastern.

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Bala Maheswaran Northeastern University

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Bala Maheswaran is a member of Northeastern University’s Gateway Team, a group of faculty expressly devoted to the first-year Engineering Program. Bala also is an ILS instructor for freshman physics and runs the CPR mid-term and final review sessions.

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

Supplemental Freshman Physics/Chemistry Programs to Support Women in Engineering


Recognizing the importance of successfully completing introductory science and math courses as first year engineering students, the Connections Physics Review (CPR) was developed at Northeastern University as part of a series of programs initially funded by NSF. CPR was one of the early Connections program components introduced in 2000 to target retention of women in the College of Engineering. Physics was chosen because of an analysis of freshman grades that identified Physics as the required course freshman engineering students attained the lowest average grades in during their freshman year. In the spring of 2005, the CPR program was revamped to include several key features to increase its participation and effectiveness. These changes included: o Selection of 2 or 3 upper class women studying engineering as role models to lead the review sessions (prior to 2005 one female senior ran the sessions) o Development of weekly review sheets produced by the upper class women who attended all of the lectures o Holding all review sessions in the evening in the freshman residence hall o Advertising sessions (with free pizza) to entice students to participate. o Running special midterm/final reviews o Making every effort to identify and assist struggling students with additional one-on-one tutoring

Upon several successful years of running the CPR program, a Connections Chemistry Review program was implemented in the fall of 2007. This paper will present program results over several years along with discussion of how others can implement similar support programs and learn from our work. Materials, including the physics and chemistry help sheets, will be included in the appendix.


Women continue to be underrepresented in engineering, earning only 19.3% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering1 and holding only 11% of engineering positions.2 Despite being as academically prepared and academically successful as men, they can lag behind men by exhibiting lower levels of academic satisfaction and lack of self-esteem.3 Traditional assumptions about career options have been reinforced in society and have projected stereotypes that discourage talented women from continuing in engineering. This is evidenced by research that has found a dramatic drop in women’s self-efficacy throughout the course of engineering programs. In an in-depth study of students who switched out of science, math, and engineering majors, 77.9% of women cited discouragement and loss of self-esteem as a factor in switching.4

Research has shown that women tend to drop out of engineering earlier and with higher GPA’s than men, suggesting a lack of support and confidence. The crucial year appears to be the freshman year when the largest drop in engineering students is seen5. Focusing on improving the

Reisberg, R., & Funai, A., & Maheswaran, B. (2009, June), Supplemental Freshman Physics/Chemistry Programs To Support Women In Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5577

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