June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1237.1 - 13.1237.18
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. https://peer.asee.org/3554
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