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Understanding Diverse Pathways: Disciplinary Trajectories of Engineering Students

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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

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1289.1 - 24.1289.7



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Paper Authors


Susan M. Lord University of San Diego

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Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, engineering student persistence, and student autonomy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is a fellow of the ASEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, on the FIE Steering Committee, and as President of the IEEE Education Society for 2009-2010. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education. She and her coauthors were awarded the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education and the 2011 Best Paper Award for the IEEE Transactions on Education. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China teaching and doing research.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University and Central Queensland University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University and a Professorial Research Fellow at Central Queensland University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by over $12.8 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011. Dr. Ohland is past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Richard A. Layton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Understanding Diverse Pathways: Disciplinary Trajectories of Engineering StudentsEngineering as a whole continues to suffer from a low participation of women of all races andBlack, Hispanic, and Native American men. To diversify pathways for students to and throughengineering and to improve student success, we must first know how to measure success andprovide baseline data describing the current situation for all students. Our previous work hasshown that persistence or success varies by race and gender, and how we measure persistencematters in understanding this variation. Once women matriculate in engineering, they graduate insix-years at the same or better rates than their male counterparts of all races. This finding,however, shows considerable variation by engineering subdiscipline. Earlier work explores thecultural uniqueness of disciplines that helps explain this variation. Electrical engineering (EE)and mechanical engineering (ME) are the largest disciplines and have the lowest percentage ofwomen. Most other engineering disciplines have higher percentages of women but fewerstudents overall. Thus aggregating all engineering disciplines tends to produce a skewed view ofthe field. Disaggregation by race and gender is imperative because not all populations respondthe same way to similar conditions. Building on earlier findings that trajectories of engineeringpersistence are non-linear, gendered, and racialized as a whole and for electrical and computerengineering, we are extending these analyses to other engineering disciplines. Using an existingdataset that includes whole population data from eleven institutions throughout the U.S. spanningmore than 20 years, we have an unprecedented opportunity to conduct analyses of studentpersistence disaggregated by race, gender, and engineering discipline. This gives us a uniqueopportunity to paint a more complete picture of the current situation for students in engineeringand to identify successes and areas of concern. We are conducting detailed quantitative analysesto examine the research question How do the trajectories of engineering students in differentengineering disciplines vary by race and gender? Trajectories are measured at matriculation,four years later, and six-year graduation for matriculants to the disciplines as well as all studentsin the major, including first-time-in-college (FTIC) and transfer students. The impact of first-year engineering (FYE) programs is also considered. Work to date has focused on mechanical,electrical, and computer engineering with the lowest percentages of women and the smaller fieldof chemical engineering that attracts more women.

Lord, S. M., & Ohland, M. W., & Layton, R. A. (2014, June), Understanding Diverse Pathways: Disciplinary Trajectories of Engineering Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23222

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