June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Women in Engineering
13.1260.1 - 13.1260.13
The Role of Institutional Commitment in the Utilization of Collegiate SWE Sections as a Recruitment and Retention Strategy Abstract
Women currently make up 56% of the undergraduate student population in the United States, but only comprise 17.4% of engineering undergraduate programs. In response to this fact, many science and engineering colleges have indicated that they want to increase the number of women on campus, but often do not provide the infrastructure to achieve this goal.
To successfully recruit and retain female students in these fields, some of the more effective methods often include a strong commitment at the institutional level rather than making it the responsibility of a single department, organization, or office. At Colorado School of Mines (CSM), an example of this approach involves utilizing the many assets of their Society of Women Engineers (SWE) collegiate section, which include their members, activities, and corporate contacts, to attract women to the institution, as well as retain them once they enroll.
Colorado School of Mines has had an active and successful SWE section since it began in 1978. Starting with just a few students, it has grown to over 360 members and is the 3rd largest section in the nation. In the fall of 2002, the new Society of Women Engineers (SWE) faculty advisor and the Executive Director for the Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics (WISEM) Program recognized that the organization could be a vital resource in recruiting and retaining female students at CSM. They began working on developing partnerships with decision makers and key personnel in the areas of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Admissions, Career Services, Institutional Advancement and the Engineering Division. By doing so, they were able to secure both the institutional commitment and the financial resources needed to provide prospective and enrolled female students with the information, opportunities, and academic and professional development needed for women to feel part of a connected learning environment.
Because of efforts like this, combined with other institutional recruitment and retention strategies, female undergraduate students at CSM continue to persist and graduate at a higher rate than their male counterparts, and the number of undergraduate and total female undergraduate students enrolled has been trending upward for more than 10 years.
Many factors influence female student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates in science and engineering. One activity that appears to have a positive influence on the retention of these students is being part of campus-based organization. Hartman and Hartman found that 67.7% of the females who “stayed” in engineering were members of discipline-specific engineering organizations compared to 33.3% of those who “left.”1 Seymour and Hewitt discovered that women who belonged to women’s societies found
Lasich, D., & Sulzbach, C. (2008, June), The Role Of Institutional Commitment In The Utilization Of Collegiate Swe Sections As A Recruitment And Retention Strategy Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3987
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