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The Evolution of the Freshman Engineering Experience to Increase Active Learning, Retention, and Diversity—Work in Progress

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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

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 5A: Work-In-Progress: 5 Minute Postcard Session I

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Tracy Jane Puccinelli University of Wisconsin - Madison

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In 2011, Puccinelli joined the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department as a Lecturer and Outreach Coordinator. As part of the BME design faculty, she works on curriculum development, as well as innovative approaches for teaching design. Puccinelli coordinates BME outreach, advising BME seniors as they develop interactive, hands-on activities for K-12 students that teach biomedical engineering concepts. Additionally, in 2012, she began teaching an introductory engineering course (Introduction to Engineering Design) to incoming freshmen in the College of Engineering. In 2014, Puccinelli became an Assistant Faculty Associate as well as a coordinator for the Introduction to Engineering Design course, which has become a popular course with more than 900 students enrolled per year, and an expected enrollment of 1000 students this coming academic year.

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Mary E. Fitzpatrick University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Mary Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. is an educational psychology researcher and former engineer. She directs the student programs and initiatives offered by the Diversity Affairs Office at UW Madison College of Engineering, evaluates program outcomes for diversity initiatives and conducts original research in the area of underrepresented individuals and organizational climate in engineering education and the workplace. Dr. Fitzpatrick holds an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and was a practicing engineer for GE, Microsoft and other leading companies before earning her Ph.D. in educational psychology.

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Gene Paul Masters University of Wisconsin - Madison

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This work in progress will describe the process of developing two new freshman engineering courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering to increase active learning, retention, and diversity. Our Introduction to Engineering and Design course is currently undergoing significant changes due to the desire to emphasize active and cooperative learning and increase diversity. Moreover, with our new direct admission model, there is a need to provide incoming engineering freshmen with a supportive and informative environment. At this time, our engineering college is also facing substantial budget cuts to education, requiring partial departmental buy-in to participate in multidisciplinary freshman engineering courses. Given the current situation, budget constraints, and available resources, we seek to determine the best course of action to provide a supportive and active learning environment and increase retention in underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities and women of all ethnicities (URMs). We have analyzed retention data, and will survey engineering students (from the past three years, including those who left engineering) on their freshman engineering experiences. This data will provide information to aid in the development of our two new freshman engineering courses.

Puccinelli, T. J., & Fitzpatrick, M. E., & Masters, G. P. (2016, June), The Evolution of the Freshman Engineering Experience to Increase Active Learning, Retention, and Diversity—Work in Progress Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26160

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