Asee peer logo

Understanding Gen Z’s Declining Engagement with WE@RIT, a Woman in Engineering Program

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kathrine Ehrlich-Scheffer Rochester Institute of Technology (COE)

visit author page

Kathy has served as Director of Women in Engineering at RIT (WE@RIT) since 2015, and brings a rich array of life experiences to the position. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Public Affairs from a women’s college where she learned first-hand the value of a female-centric support network, Kathy made her way to Silicon Valley. There she studied CMOS Mask Layout Design which eventually led her to a position in IT for a semiconductor IP start-up. Fast forward through coast-to-coast moves to Boston, San Diego and finally Rochester, Kathy spent many years in the fitness industry while raising her daughter, wearing every hat from personal trainer and cycling instructor to owner and director of Cycledelic Indoor Cycling Studio. Kathy draws upon these many diverse career and life experiences while directing WE@RIT.

In the spring of 2020, Kathy earned her Master of Science degree
in Program Design, Analysis & Management through RIT's School of Individualized Study, combining concentrations in Project Management, Analytics and Research, & Group Leadership and Development.

An unabashed introvert, Kathy enjoys reading and spending time with her family, exploring the world of craft cocktails, and making a fuss over her Boston Terrier, Gatsby.

visit author page

Download Paper |


In the spring of 2020 after several years of declining student engagement, we undertook a survey of undergraduate women engineering students to better understand their reasons for engaging with the women in engineering program; to understand their top concerns as women studying engineering, and to find the best ways to communicate with these women. Though the survey allowed us to broadly answer some of these questions and to align current student behavior with that being demonstrated nationally among Gen Z students, qualitative follow up was necessary. In the mid spring semester of 2020, three focus groups were carried out with current engineering students. In particular, we wanted to better understand why gender concerns consistently ranked at or near the bottom of current student concerns across all engineering years and majors in the earlier spring survey; to understand how an event-driven organization like WE@RIT could aid in addressing the students’ primary concern of succeeding in their engineering curriculum and providing academic support; and better understand how email, text messages and student social networks could be leveraged to effectively market programming. Concurrently, we held contextual interviews with several campus clubs and programs to ascertain if student co-curricular engagement was declining across the board and if any broad conclusions on student engagement trends could be reached. What resulted was a nuanced understanding of why engagement for current student programs is declining with women in engineering in particular, an understanding of trends driving engagement in the broader campus community, and a plan to communicate with these students and integrate their voice into current student programming to improve student engagement going forward.

Ehrlich-Scheffer, K. (2021, July), Understanding Gen Z’s Declining Engagement with WE@RIT, a Woman in Engineering Program Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37958

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: © 2021 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