Asee peer logo

Thriving for Engineering Students and Institutions: Definition, Potential Impact, and Proposed Conceptual Framework

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Seeking Resilience and Learning to Thrive Through Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Julianna Sun Ge Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Julianna Ge is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Purdue Doctoral Fellow. At Purdue, she developed and currently teaches a novel course on thriving for undergraduate engineering students. At the broadest level, her research interests intersect the fields of engineering education, positive psychology, and human development to understand cognitive and noncognitive factors related to success for undergraduate engineering students. Prior to Purdue, she received dual bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Engineering and Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her prior work experiences include product management, consulting, tutoring, marketing, and information technology.

visit author page


Edward J. Berger Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Edward Berger is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education and Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, joining Purdue in August 2014. He has been teaching mechanics for over 20 years, and has worked extensively on the integration and assessment of specific technology interventions in mechanics classes. He was one of the co-leaders in 2013-2014 of the ASEE Virtual Community of Practice (VCP) for mechanics educators across the country. His current research focuses on student problem-solving processes and use of worked examples, change models and evidence-based teaching practices in engineering curricula, and the role of non-cognitive and affective factors in student academic outcomes and overall success.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper addresses the growing need for a clear definition of ‘thriving’ relevant to engineering students and institutions. This paper was inspired by a research project that examines the impact of non-cognitive factors on engineering student success (NSF #redacted). This project developed a survey to measure several non-cognitive factors using validated instruments reported in the literature. After collecting preliminary data from 490 undergraduate engineering students, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) did not produce a factor structure consistent with previous reports, suggesting a need to develop items with validity evidence for engineering students around these constructs. Given the survey questions on thriving showed strong evidence of internal consistency in a broader higher education population [1], and the unique experiences and curriculum demands of undergraduate engineering students [2], it is unlikely that flaws in the survey questions led to these poor EFA results. It is more likely that current models of thriving, which were not developed specifically for undergraduate engineering students, may not fully apply to this population. Thus, the primary focus on this paper is to engage in a theoretical and practical discussion of how thriving in the engineering context can be understood and conceptualized.

The outcome of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework for thriving relevant to engineering students and institutions. This proposed conceptual framework results from a discussion of thriving by connecting topics (such as mindfulness, gratitude, creativity diversity and inclusion) from Engineering Education, Positive Psychology, and other fields.

This framework addresses engineering thriving at both the individual and institutional levels. At the individual level, constructs such as mindfulness, creativity, and meaning are discussed to support engineering students and staff to develop a tolerance for ambiguity and find meaning from external events. At the institutional level, broader topics such as engineering culture are discussed to support the wellbeing of the engineering community based on a systems perspective.

Overall, focusing on thriving in the engineering context in many ways represents a paradigm shift in engineering education that has great potential to inform new strategies that further improve the way engineering is learned, taught, and practiced. Findings from research on engineering thriving is meant to complement, rather than replace, the traditional engineering education in supporting engineering students’ and institutions’ success. This proposed conceptual framework may serve the engineering education community by providing a first step in understanding and measuring thriving in the engineering context to support more engineering students to thrive through graduation and beyond.


[1] R. Su, L. Tay, and E. Diener, “The Development and Validation of the Comprehensive Inventory of Thriving (CIT) and the Brief Inventory of Thriving (BIT),” Appl. Psychol. Heal. Well-Being, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 251–279, 2014.

[2] C. P. Veenstra, E. L. Dey, and G. D. Herrin, “Is Modeling of Freshman Engineering Success Different from Modeling of Non-Engineering Success?,” J. Eng. Educ., vol. 97, no. 4, pp. 467–479, 2008.

Ge, J. S., & Berger, E. J. (2018, June), Thriving for Engineering Students and Institutions: Definition, Potential Impact, and Proposed Conceptual Framework Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31141

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: © 2018 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