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The Role of Empathy in Choosing Majors

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

19

DOI

10.18260/1-2--33420

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33420

Download Count

193

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Paper Authors

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Eddie Jacobs P.E. University of Memphis

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Eddie L. Jacobs holds a B.S.E.E. (1986) and M.S.E.E. (1988) degree from the University of Arkansas, and a D.Sc. degree in Electro-physics from the George Washington University (2001). Dr. Jacobs is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Tennessee. Dr. Jacobs began teaching in 2006 after a 17 year career as a US Department of Defense researcher. He currently serves as the Undergraduate Coordinator for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Memphis. He is actively involved in curriculum development and in efforts to form the professional identity of students. He serves as the faculty sponsor for IEEE-HKN honor society and a faculty advisor for IEEE. He provides numerous research experiences for undergraduates, primarily in the fields of optics and imaging which are his major areas of research. Dr. Jacobs is fellow of SPIE and a senior member of IEEE.

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Amy L. de Jongh Curry University of Memphis

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Amy L. de Jongh Curry, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of Memphis (UM) with secondary appointment in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. She also holds an adjunct position in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) through the Joint Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering at UM/UTHSC. Dr. Curry received B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Memphis.

Her current research interests include cardiac and neural electrophysiology with applications in cardio- and neuro-modulation via implantable electrostimulation devices, computational modeling and visualization, and best practices in undergraduate engineering education. These efforts have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and American Heart Association. Dr. Curry is a member of Tau Beta Pi, American Society for Engineering Education, Society of Women Engineers, and a Senior Member of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

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Carmen Astorne-Figari University of Memphis

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Assistant Professor of Economics, Fogelman College of Business and Economics, University of Memphis

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Russell J. Deaton University of Memphis

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Dr. Russell Deaton is currently Professor of Engineering and Associate Dean of the Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis. From 2012-2017, he was chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Memphis. From 2000-2012, he was a professor in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Arkansas, and from 1992-2000, was on faculty in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Memphis. He has a Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Duke University, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Memphis, and a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina. In addition, he held engineering positions at UTC-Mostek and General Electric. He has published extensively in the area of DNA Computing and Molecular Programming, including DNA-guided self-assembly of nanostructures. He was organizing and program chair for 15th International Conference for DNA Computing and Molecular Programming (DNA15), and co-editor of a Springer volume of Lecture Notes in Computer Science with selected conference papers.

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Wesam M. Salem University of Memphis

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Wesam M. Salem is a doctoral student of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at the University of Memphis. Her research focuses on qualitative research with particular attention to postqualitative and critical research methods. Her research interests include mathematics identity and the intersectionality of race, gender, religion, and national origin in education drawing on postcolonial theory.

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Yonghong Jade Xu University of Memphis

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Professor of Educational Research, Quantitative Methodology.

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Shelby G. Roberts University of Memphis

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Shelby G. Roberts is a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis. Her interests focus on higher education retention efforts for underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

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Abstract

In this research, we investigated the role empathy plays in women’s choice of major with particular emphasis on engineering disciplines. We began by formulating a survey instrument that measured the level of empathy of the survey participant, the perceived level of empathy of various academic disciplines, the likelihood of majoring in a discipline, and the perception of empathy among the faculty and fellow students within their current major, along with demographic information. To measure the level of empathy of an individual, we used a modified form of the Empathizing/Systematizing Quotient (EQ-SQ) developed by Simon Baron-Cohen. We obtained 517 valid responses to the survey. Of those responses, 46% were female. In addition, 257 were STEM majors with 231 of those being engineering majors. Of the engineering majors, 69 were female. Results from this survey indicate that 1) women are more empathetic than men, 2) students in engineers and STEM majors are less empathetic than those in non-STEM majors, 3) engineering disciplines are perceived as less empathetic than other majors, and 4) empathy is negatively correlated with choosing engineering as a major.

Following these quantitative results, we have designed a qualitative focus group study to delve deeper into some of the reasons behind the quantitative results. The focus groups were women in STEM (non-engineering) disciplines, women in engineering disciplines, and women in non-STEM disciplines. These studies are ongoing but to date, we have had three engineering women and two non-STEM women participate in the study. Using thematic analysis, an early result emerging from this part of the study is the role that fathers and math teachers play in the choices women make to study engineering. This role can be positive and affirming and cited as a key reason for majoring in engineering. It can also be negative and repressing and cited as a key reason for not majoring in engineering.

Jacobs, E., & de Jongh Curry, A. L., & Astorne-Figari, C., & Deaton, R. J., & Salem, W. M., & Xu, Y. J., & Roberts, S. G. (2019, June), The Role of Empathy in Choosing Majors Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33420

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