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Toward Broadening Participation: Understanding Students' Perceptions of Industrial Engineering

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1267.1 - 24.1267.11



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Paper Authors

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Valerie Yvette Rito Kansas State University

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Jessica Lynn Aschenbrenner Kansas State University


Jessica L. Heier Stamm Kansas State University

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Jessica L. Heier Stamm holds a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. in industrial engineering from Kansas State University. Her research in engineering education centers on broadening the participation of underrepresented students in engineering and introducing students to humanitarian applications of operations research. Dr. Heier Stamm also conducts research in the fields of game theory and optimization applied to public health and humanitarian logistics systems. Support for this work was provided by National Science Foundation award number CMMI-1228110. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding organization.

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TOWARD BROADENING PARTICIPATION: UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERINGAbstractAdvances in engineering are critical to addressing societal challenges. Conveying this messageis essential to efforts to recruit and retain a diverse community of future engineers. A study bythe National Academy of Engineering suggests that students are most drawn to messages thatemphasize the impact that engineers have on real-world problems that affect people’s lives2.There is evidence to suggest that this is especially true for students from underrepresentedgroups2,3, and that freshman women in engineering may have a lower perception of howengineers contribute to society than do men in the same cohort1. These findings haveimplications for recruitment, retention, and graduation of students in industrial engineering (IE)curricula.This paper will present the results of a study that measured current IE students’ interest insolving operations research problems in different industry sectors and their perceptions aboutindustrial engineering careers. Two cohorts of undergraduate IE majors in a required operationsresearch course at the authors’ institution responded to a survey. Students were given shortdescriptions of hypothetical problems, class projects, and career fair job postings, withdescriptions being drawn from the financial, manufacturing, entertainment, and humanitariansectors. Respondents indicated their interest levels in each problem or job opportunity using aLikert scale. Students were also asked to indicate their reasons for pursuing an industrialengineering degree and to select phrases that they felt best described industrial engineering.Their responses were analyzed to gain insight about the following questions:  Do students express stronger interest in solving problems or pursuing jobs in particular industry sectors than in others?  What factors contribute to students’ choices to major in industrial engineering?  To what extent do students describe industrial engineering as a career that makes a difference in society?  Do the responses of majority group students differ significantly from those of students from underrepresented groups?The paper will comment on opportunities to use the survey findings to inform recruitmentactivities and curriculum design. Future work, including surveys of pre-college students and ofstudents at multiple stages in the IE curriculum, will also be discussed.1. Besterfield-Sacre, M., Moreno, M., Shuman, L. J., and Atman, C. J., “Gender and ethnicity differences in freshmen engineering student attitudes: A cross-institutional study,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 90, no. 4, pp. 477–489, 2001.2. Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages, National Academy of Engineering, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2008.3. Grandy, J., “Gender and ethnic differences in the experiences, achievements, and expectations of science and engineering majors,” Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 119–143, 1997.

Rito, V. Y., & Aschenbrenner, J. L., & Heier Stamm, J. L. (2014, June), Toward Broadening Participation: Understanding Students' Perceptions of Industrial Engineering Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23200

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