Asee peer logo

Understanding the Relationship between Living–Learning Communities and Self-efficacy of Women in Engineering

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Retention of Undergraduate Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1628.1 - 26.1628.20



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Elaine Zundl Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

visit author page

Elaine Zundl is Assistant Dean at Douglass Residential College and Director of the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science, and Engineering. She specializes in designing programs that promote an inclusive climate for women in STEM at Rutgers. Her experience includes serving on projects that recruit and retain women in engineering and computing especially through co-curricular learning interventions like living-learning communities, undergraduate research experiences, and leadership experiences. Her research interests include integrating gender into research methods as a way to improve outcomes and lead to greater diversity in STEM.

visit author page


Laura Stiltz Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

visit author page

Laura Stiltz is Director of Douglass Project Research Programs and Advising for Undergraduate Women in STEM at Rutgers University's Douglass Residential College. She led the committee charged with creating the Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community and continues to coordinate the program at the Douglass Project. Laura earned her M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Administration from The University of Georgia and her B.S. in Applied Mathematics from The Georgia Institute of Technology. She has been admitted to the PhD program in Higher and Postsecondary Education at New York University and will start in September of 2015 with her research focusing on living-learning programs.

visit author page


Helen M. Buettner Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

visit author page

Dr. Helen M. Buettner is a professor of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering and of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University. She holds a B.S. from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, both in chemical engineering. In addition to serving as the faculty advisor for DELLC she is the undergraduate program director in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. She is especially interested in innovative teaching and learning approaches in engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Understanding the Relationship between Living-Learning Communities and Retention of Women in EngineeringThe underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) haslong been part of a national narrative as more and more jobs move into those sectors of theeconomy (Anderson, 1995; Concannon & Barrow, 2010; Hughes, 2010). Over the years, severalpredictors have been identified that relate to women’s persistence in these fields, including self-efficacy and academic confidence, feelings of inclusion, career expectations, and copingstrategies (Marra, Rodgers, Shen, & Bogue, 2009; Concannon & Barrow, 2010; Morganson,Jones, & Major, 2010; Allen, 2011; Soldner, Rowan-Kenyon, Inkelas, Garvey, & Robbins,2012). Intentional interventions, such as living-learning communities, offer many programmaticaspects such as peer support, faculty interaction, and “seamless” learning that can increasewomen’s self-efficacy and feelings of inclusion which will ultimately lead to their retention(Vest, Goldberg, & Sedlacek, 1996; Inkelas & Weisman, 2003; Hughes, 2010; Allen, 2011;Inkelas & Soldner, 2011; Inkelas, 2011; Soldner et al., 2012).Rutgers University’s Douglass Residential College and School of Engineering developed apartnership to provide first-year women in engineering the opportunity to live together and studyengineering through the Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community (DELLC). Thishigh-impact program, which provides first-year women enrolled in engineering a residentialenvironment as well as intentional peer and faculty interaction to promote their success in thefield of engineering, has exceeded expectations in retaining undergraduate women from the firstto third year in engineering. Aspects of this community include students residing together on afloor of the co-educational hall dedicated to first-year students in engineering, access to aDouglass Peer Academic Leader (PAL) in-residence, support from a female engineeringgraduate student mentor, enrollment in the Douglass first-year course Knowledge and Power:Issues in Women’s Leadership, and interaction with faculty from all engineering disciplinesduring their linked course Introduction to Engineering which is taught by a full-time facultymember.Since the inception of the Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community in 2012, 42 first-year women have participated and completed the program. Of those women, 38 havesuccessfully stayed in an engineering curriculum (90% retention rate), and 29 have continued tolive together in another residence hall. To assess the effectiveness of this program on thepredictors of retention, all students participating were asked to complete the LongitudinalAssessment of Engineering Self-Efficacy (LAESE) developed by The Pennsylvania StateUniversity and University of Missouri (Marra & Bouge, 2006). This instrument measures severaloutcomes related to retention and is widely used to better understand students’ feelings towardsengineering. Focus groups were also used to generate feedback about specific elements of theLLC program. We have found that our first two cohorts of female engineering students, currentlyin their second and third years, express significantly higher levels of career expectations, self-efficacy, feelings of inclusion and coping towards engineering than when they first entered.They also currently expect to graduate with their engineering degree in four years.ReferencesAllen, D.F. (2011, May 24). SAIR and NCAIR best paper: Academic confidence and the impact of a living-learning community on persistence. Paper presented at the Association for Institutional Research 2011 Forum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Anderson, T. H. (1995). The Movement and the sixties. New York: Oxford University Press.Concannon, J. P., & Barrow, L. H. (2010). Men’s and women’s intentions to persist in undergraduate engineering degree programs. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 19(2), 133–145.Hughes, R. (2010). Keeping university women in STEM fields. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 2(3), 417–436.Inkelas, K. K., & Weisman, J. L. (2003). Different by design: An examination of student outcomes among participants in three types of living-learning programs. Journal of College Student Development, 44(3), 335–368.Inkelas, K. K. (2011). Living-learning programs for women in STEM. New Directions for Institutional Research, 2000(152), 27-37.Inkelas, K. K., & Soldner, M. (2011). Undergraduate living–learning programs and student outcomes. In J. C. Smart & M. B. Paulsen (Eds.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (pp. 1–55). Springer Netherlands.Marra, R. M., & Bogue, B. (2006). Women engineering students’ self efficacy – A longitudinal multi-institution study. Paper presented at the Women in Engineering ProActive Network Conference, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Survey retrieved from, R. M., Rodgers, K. A., Shen, D., & Bogue, B. (2009). Women engineering students and self-efficacy: A multi-year, multi-institution study of women engineering student self- efficacy. Journal of Engineering Education, 98(1), 27–38.Morganson, V. J., Jones, M. P., & Major, D. A. (2010). Understanding women’s underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: The role of social coping. Career Development Quarterly, 59(2), 169–179.Soldner, M., Rowand-Kenyon, H., Inkelas, K. K., Garvey, J., & Robbins, C. (2012). Supporting students’ intentions to persist in STEM disciplines: The role of living-learning programs among other social-cognitive factors. Journal of Higher Education, 83(3), 311-336.Vest, J. L., Goldberg, J.L, & Sedlacek, W. E. (1996). Involving students through building community: Challenges for women in engineering programs (#4-96). College Park, Maryland: University of Maryland at College Park, Counseling Center. Retrieved from

Zundl, E., & Stiltz, L., & Buettner, H. M. (2015, June), Understanding the Relationship between Living–Learning Communities and Self-efficacy of Women in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24964

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: © 2015 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