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The Role Of ‘Doggedness’ In The Completion Of An Undergraduate Degree In Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Curricular Innovations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1466.1 - 12.1466.10



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Paper Authors


Janice McCain Howard University

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JANICE McCAIN is a Research Associate at the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE) at Howard University. Her areas of interest include persistence and motivation, retention of minority students in higher education, and international economic development, particularly as it relates to women in Africa.

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Lorraine Fleming Howard University

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LORRAINE FLEMING is professor and former Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University. Dr. Fleming serves as the Co-Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation HBCU Undergraduate Program grant designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who pursue degrees in engineering, mathematics, and science. She serves as the Principal Investigator of an NSF grant designed to study the post baccalaureate decisions of high achieving Black STEM students. She is also a 2005 Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

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Dawn Williams Howard University

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DAWN G. WILLIAMS is an Assistant Professor and Master's Program Coordinator in the Department of Educational Administration and Policy at Howard University. Dr. Williams serves as a faculty researcher for the Center for Advancement of Engineering Education. She is also the Co-Principal Investigator of an NSF grant designed to study the post baccalaureate decisions of high achieving Black STEM students. Her primary research interests lie in K-12 educational policies targeted for urban school reform.

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Kimarie Engerman University of the Virgin Islands

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KIMARIE ENGERMAN is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of the Virgin Islands. Dr. Engerman is the former Research Associate at the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education.

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

The Role of ‘Doggedness’ in the Completion of an Undergraduate Degree in Engineering

I. Introduction

Research in engineering education over the past 15 years has shown that the interest in pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering has declined amongst graduating high school students. It also revealed that only half of the students entering U.S. universities as engineering majors actually complete all degree requirements. A large portion of the engineering education research focuses on factors used to predict the likelihood that a student will successfully complete an undergraduate degree in engineering. These factors include: a student’s prior academic attainments, level of commitment, personal motivation, and level of enjoyment and satisfaction1. However, there is a lack of research and discussion pertaining to the significance of personal motivation that can be described as ‘doggedness’ relative to successful completion of graduation requirements.

The term ‘doggedness’, although not a new term, has not been widely used in the vernacular of engineering education. Doggedness entails perseverance, tenacity, and the ability to stubbornly adhere to a course of action. It holds the potential promise of pointing to a valuable personality attribute or characteristic that supports greater levels of persistence in engineering students. For the purpose of this paper, the concept of ‘doggedness’ is operationalized to include factors and characteristics that show a high level of commitment to completing a degree in engineering, an intention towards perseverance for its own sake, and varying degrees of enjoyment and satisfaction. Traditionally, students who enjoyed and were satisfied with the rigors of their engineering programs, and who completed their degrees, have typically been called persisters. However, this paper uses structured interview data to examine a targeted group of students that have experienced varying levels of enjoyment and satisfaction, but who remain highly committed to completing their engineering degrees. This population of students will be called dogged. The level of doggedness among engineering students may have some impact on students’ ability to complete undergraduate engineering degrees, and may play a role in influencing students’ decisions to work in the engineering industry or continue in graduate engineering degree programs in the future. Since the most dogged students persevere without a high level of satisfaction they are perhaps the most likely to make non-engineering post- baccalaureate career choices even if they are able to complete the undergraduate degree.

II. Background Literature

There is a paucity of literature that focuses specifically on doggedness. In as much as doggedness can be viewed in the context of personal motivation, it is largely an extension of persistence. The literature mentioned below provides the framework that is used to contextually describe the concept of doggedness.


Research on persistence has focused on institutional factors and programs that promote

McCain, J., & Fleming, L., & Williams, D., & Engerman, K. (2007, June), The Role Of ‘Doggedness’ In The Completion Of An Undergraduate Degree In Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2146

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