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The Effect Of International Diversity On Graduate Engineering Education: A Literature Review

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Global Engineering Education: Intercultural Awareness and International Experience

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Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1224.1 - 15.1224.12



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Paper Authors

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Erin Crede Virginia Tech

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Maura Borrego Virginia Tech

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

The Effect of International Diversity on Graduate Engineering Education: A Literature Review Abstract

The purpose of this study was to integrate the previously disconnected body of knowledge surrounding the social, cultural and professional identity development of graduate students in internationally diverse engineering departments. Due to the lack of studies that focus specifically on this topic, a collection of literature was identified and an integrative literature review preformed. Articles reviewed cover a wide variety of topics, including: professional identity development, socialization experiences and social adaptation in doctoral education, culture shock and assimilation of international students in learning communities, engineering culture and the climate for graduate students, and international and domestic graduate student enrollment and admission trends, among others. These articles were critically reviewed to determine the current state of graduate engineering education for both international and domestic students. We conclude by identifying gaps and posing questions for future work relating to internationally diverse communities and graduate education.


The prevalence of international students is a defining feature of many US graduate engineering programs. Non-US citizens accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all engineering doctorate recipients in 2006 1. After two years of decline, first time graduate enrollment in science and engineering increased in 2006—by 16% for foreign students but only 1% for domestic students 2. A recent report by the Council of Graduate Schools indicates a shift in enrollments during the 2007/2008 academic year for engineering departments, with enrollment of US citizens increasing 10.9% compared to a 5.5% increase in international enrollments. Despite these fluctuations, the past 10 years have seen an average annual change in graduate enrollment in engineering of 1.2% for US citizens and permanent residents, and 6.3% for international students 3.

To date, much of the research regarding the recruitment and retention of doctoral students has focused on examining student characteristics and factors external to the university, such as undergraduate GPA, gender and marital status 4, 5. While these quantitative studies have yielded a broad overview of possible factors that influence the decision to leave doctoral study, we have yet to fully conceptualize the engineering graduate student experience. Additional studies have focused on the interaction between the student and the department or discipline, but did not incorporate engineering students 6, 7. Previous studies have included a broad range of disciplines, examining the statistically significant differences in program completion rates, and identifying characteristics that distinguish one discipline from another. Paramount among these cited differences was the large proportion of international students attending US graduate engineering programs 4, 8.

Existing research on enculturation and adaptation of student sojourners focuses heavily on the experiences of undergraduate students studying abroad, with very few studies considering the experiences of graduate students. Within the field of graduate education, research centers on the pursuit of a doctoral degree with the intention of obtaining a faculty position, with other studies

Crede, E., & Borrego, M. (2010, June), The Effect Of International Diversity On Graduate Engineering Education: A Literature Review Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15975

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