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Using Student Ambassadors to Relay Themes from Changing the Conversation in Engineering First-year Seminars

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Creative and Cross-disciplinary Methods Part II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1442.1 - 25.1442.22



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Paper Authors


Sarah E. Zappe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Sarah Zappe is the Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the College of Engineering at Penn State University. In this role, she provides support to faculty in trying innovative ideas in the classroom. Her background is in educational psychology with an emphasis in applied testing and measurement. Her current research interests include integrating creativity into the engineering curriculum, developing instruments to measure the engineering professional skills, and using qualitative data to enhance response process validity of tests and instruments.

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Melissa Marshall Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Enrique D. Gomez Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Esther Gomez Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Angela D. Lueking Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Using student ambassadors to relay themes from Changing the Conversation in Engineering First Year SeminarsAbstractA 2008 book by the National Academy of Engineering, Changing the Conversation, describesthe results of a marketing study intended to identify messages likely to improve publicunderstanding of engineering. The study demonstrated that many people do not understand therole engineers play in our society. Furthermore, the common message used to define engineeringas the “application of science to the real world” was not found to be appealing, particularly tofemales. Messages that were more appealing to all students included the following: “Engineeringmakes a world of difference” and “Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.”This paper describes a project to integrate these messages into First Year Seminars (FYS) at alarge mid-Atlantic public university. The purpose of the initiative, which uses engineeringstudents to relay these messages, is to impact student perceptions of engineering and to provideinformation to students that will be critical in making career decisions.The Engineering Ambassadors are a relatively new student group in the College of Engineeringat the authors’ institution. The Ambassadors began with the goal of defining engineering in amanner consistent with Changing the Conversation to the 6-12 population. During the past fewyears, the Ambassadors have made several trips to middle and high schools in the authors’ state,communicating this message to students. In the past year, the Ambassadors have expanded theirefforts by leading presentations in the College for different events, such as student visits tocampus. Evaluation efforts have shown that the Ambassadors have been successful at increasingstudent understanding of engineering careers. In addition, after attending presentations by theAmbassadors, students are more likely to define engineering in the terms associated with health,happiness, and safety. Members of the Ambassadors are college-aged successful students withwhom the student audience can readily relate.In the Fall of 2011, a pilot program was launched in two sections of a Chemical EngineeringFYS. The ambassadors made four separate visits to each section, focusing on the followingtopics: 1) An overview of College of Engineering Majors, 2) Options within ChemicalEngineering, 3) Student experiences in the College of Engineering, and 4) How to be asuccessful engineering student. Woven through each presentation were themes from Changingthe Conversation, focusing on how engineers are essential to health, happiness and safety. Thestudents were mentored by a faculty member whose background is in Communication. Thequality of student presentations was high, utilizing the assertion-evidence method of slide design.Data is currently being collected to determine whether the following project objectives are beingmet: 1) Students in the FYS will have a greater understanding of the possible careers inengineering as well as the engineering majors; and 2) Students will be more likely to defineengineering in terms associated with health, happiness, and safety. To date, a pre-course surveyhas been administered. Short evaluation surveys have been administered following eachambassador visit. A post-course survey will be administered at the end of the semester.Preliminary analysis of the data has shown that students had a positive reaction to theambassador visits. More detailed discussion of the data will be available in the final paper.

Zappe, S. E., & Marshall, M., & Gomez, E. D., & Gomez, E., & Lueking, A. D. (2012, June), Using Student Ambassadors to Relay Themes from Changing the Conversation in Engineering First-year Seminars Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22199

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