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Using An Industrial Engineering Tool To Improve Engineering Student Attrition

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

IE Enrollment/Curriculum Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1399.1 - 10.1399.15



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Paper Authors

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Erick Jones

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

“Using Industrial Engineering Tools to Improve Engineering Student Attrition”

Erick C. Jones, Satish S. Oswal, Ann Koopman, Brandy Keithley

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT Bright students are leaving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. In the landmark study, “Talking About Leaving'', Seymour and Hewitt suggest that each institution should examine its own set of factors as to why students leave these programs, and then take appropriate action. Previous research has identified multiple reasons for the student retention problem including attitudes toward the engineering field, student’s self-confidence levels, quality of instructor interactions, and robustness of the STEM curriculum: for example engineering in comparison to other non-STEM majors such as liberal arts or business. Engineering student attrition due to poor attitudes, perceived coursework difficulty, and departmental polices that effect this behavior are clearly concerns for engineering institutions. Lovitts (2001) suggests that more standardized quantitative measures for departmental environments need to be created, and more appropriate quantitative measurements need to be applied to studying STEM student attrition. There is a need to conduct objective longitudinal studies that prevent attrition as opposed to the subjective retrospective studies done in the past. This study demonstrates a methodology that will begin to fulfill this need. The Statistical Evaluation of Cognitive Turnover Control System (SECtCS) methodology was designed to perform objective longitudinal studies on turnover and is founded on Industrial Engineering principles of statistical process control, Engineering Management theories on motivation, and Industrial Psychology test instrument development techniques. This paper reports the results of a study conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that used this methodology to evaluate measures affecting sophomore engineering students’ attrition. Results presented on the first two phases of this methodology demonstrate how burnout and turnover measures affect attrition in the College of Engineering & Technology (CoE&T) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and may point to interventions that show promise in reducing engineering student attrition.

INTRODUCTION Academic organizations spend millions of dollars each year to recruit students to the STEM majors. The National Science Foundation and other organizations have allocated funds to increase the enrollment of STEM students. This research, if proven valid, may be applied to the efforts to reduce the turnover of students leaving this field and allow money spent by academic organizations to be better utilized in the retention effort. Administrators may be able to avoid negative consequences to universities and students by identifying the STEM students who are experiencing high levels of Cognitive Turnover.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society fr Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Jones, E. (2005, June), Using An Industrial Engineering Tool To Improve Engineering Student Attrition Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14595

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: © 2005 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