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The Impact Of Students' Life Experiences On Program Retention. A Study Of Female Engineering Students In Mexico.

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

International CIase Studies: Collabs, Exchanges & Interactions

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1237.1 - 13.1237.18



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Paper Authors


Carmen Villa Texas A&M

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Carmen Villa is an Adult Education doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University. Carmen is a graduate assistant for Dr. Yvonna Lincoln and Dr. Carolyn Clark. Her research interests include underrepresented populations in higher education, cultural practices and their impact on education for Hispanic students.

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Jennifer Sandlin Arizona State University

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

The Impact of Students’ Life Experiences on Program Retention: A Study of Female Engineering Students in Mexico Key words: Women engineering students, Mexico, college student retention, international engineering education


The purpose of this study was to identify why female students remain in and graduate from engineering schools in Mexico. The study sought to understand and describe the perceptions of women engineering students in Mexico regarding the personal, institutional, and cultural characteristics that help them persist in their programs. To address this concern a qualitative method of inquiry was used in which data were collected using interviews and observations.

Because student experiences differ between countries, we expected that Mexican students would present specific needs dictated by their culture. Furthermore, within any particular country students have different experiences depending on the type of institution and particular engineering program they participate in; we thus chose a range of institutions and programs to examine. The participants in this study were 20 female engineering students enrolled in at least their third year in selected colleges of engineering in Mexico, in both public and private universities, and pursuing a variety of engineering majors.

There is little information about the factors that contribute to the persistence of women in engineering colleges in Mexico. The number of women in engineering is still low compared to the number of women enrolled in higher education institutions in general. It is thus important to identify the factors that contribute to the persistence and graduation of women in engineering programs, which was the focus of this study. Findings from this study can help faculty, advisers, and program planners to better meet the needs of women students and reduce their rate of attrition in engineering programs.

Findings that emerged from this study focus on how female students created or discovered sources of support that helped them stay in their programs. The students described their experiences in colleges as very challenging and perceived the environment as hostile and uncertain. In addition, dimensions of Mexican culture and stereotypes were identified by the students as influencing and helping to shape the engineering environment. However, in this environment students were able to find sources of support and strategies that helped them remain in their majors such as: a strong desire to succeed; perceived academic ability and support from their families, peers, institutions, and -most importantly- their professors. Finally, the fact that the female students will finish their programs gives them a sense of pride and satisfaction that is shared by their families, peers, and faculty.

Review of the Literature

Over the last decades, scholars have been studying the scarcity of women in science and engineering, and have begun to examine reasons for this shortage.1 In recent years, the proportion of women entering traditionally male-dominated professions has increased

Villa, C., & Sandlin, J. (2008, June), The Impact Of Students' Life Experiences On Program Retention. A Study Of Female Engineering Students In Mexico. Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3554

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015