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The Effect Of The Scheduling Of The First Engineering Course On The Retention Of Underrepresented Minority Engineering Students

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.519.1 - 4.519.9

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Paper Authors

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Mary Anderson-Rowland

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

Session 2570

The Effect of the Scheduling of the First Engineering Course on the Retention of Underrepresented Minority Engineering Students

Mary R. Anderson-Rowland Arizona State University


The retention of freshmen engineering students has received much attention and research focus in the last few years. Direct exposure to engineering during the first two semesters of the freshman engineering student is an area being studied as a retention factor. When the introductory engineering course at Arizona State (ASU) was in a different format, studies suggested that if engineering students took the course during their first (fall) semester, their rate of retention was higher than those who took the course in the spring. However, due to staffing and space limits, only about half of the new freshmen can take the course in the fall. In a more recent study, women and minority students showed a trend of higher retention by taking ECE 100 in the fall. Because the numbers were low, more study needed to be done to strongly suggest a change in the semester in which students took ECE 100.

During the past five years, the Office of Minority Programs (OMEP) has expanded and become very active in its efforts to recruit and to retain underrepresented students. As we look to further refine our efforts, it would be useful to learn if the semester in which an underrepresented minority student took ECE 100 had a significant effect on retention. This paper will look at the records of the FFF minority students who enrolled in the past three falls and investigate their trend of attrition. If there is evidence that minority students who do not take ECE 100 in the fall are more likely to withdraw from the CEAS, then special programs to help increase this retention would be indicated. One purpose of the special programs would be to help these students, already isolated by small numbers, to feel a part of the college and also to give them a vision until they have a chance to take a course on engineering.

Surprisingly, this study did not show any significant difference in the retention rates of FFF minority students who took ECE 100 in the fall or the spring. However, there was a significant difference in the retention of FFF minority students who took ECE 100 and those who did not take the course. An alarming number of students withdrew from the CEAS before they had taken even one engineering course. Minority focus groups with FFF taking ECE 100 in the spring and those freshmen who have not taken ECE 100 will be used to clarify their program needs.


It is well known that the retention of engineering students is a national problem. Many approaches are being implemented to increase retention. These approaches range from special design courses1 and experiences2 to integrated curricula3 and integrated learning and cluster classes4 and cluster housing,5 to special programs, workshops and seminars.6 Learning communities are being formed to help engineering retention.7 Other programs inform professors

Anderson-Rowland, M. (1999, June), The Effect Of The Scheduling Of The First Engineering Course On The Retention Of Underrepresented Minority Engineering Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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