Asee peer logo

Wellness Strategies For Women Engineers: An Interdisciplinary Course Designed To Help Women Engineering Students Succeed

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Retention: Keeping the Women Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1418.1 - 9.1418.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Mary Ellen Litzinger

author page

Barbara Bogue

Download Paper |

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

Session 1392

Wellness Strategies for Women Engineers: An Interdisciplinary Course Designed to Help Women Engineers Succeed

Barbara Bogue, Mary Ellen Litzinger, The Pennsylvania State University


A primary issue for undergraduate women in engineering is their status as a minority in their chosen field of study. Despite concentrated efforts women, at latest count, comprise approximately only 20% of undergraduate engineering school enrollment nationwide and approximately 8.5 % of the United State’s engineers 5, 8, 13, 21. This imbalance creates an environment where two factors are primary and too often defining: A gender-based isolation that is compounded by the challenge of operating in an environment designed by and for males. These factors can negatively impact a student’s ability to persist and perform well. More important, these factors are frequently not identified by women as explicit factors in their success. Rather than acknowledging the challenges inherent in their study and work environments and devising successful strategies to meet these challenges, female students tend to blame their own lack of talent or aptitude or decide that the discipline, rather than the environment, is not for them. Typical consequences of these behaviors can be a lack of persistence in the major and/or the development of counterproductive coping strategies. This internalization of failure can create a highly stressful situation, particularly when coupled with a demanding curriculum 8, 16, 17.

To address this issue we created an upper level course, Wellness Strategies for Engineering Women, that combines a required general education course requirement in health and physical activities with career development activities and an exposure to gender literature. The primary course design was developed by author Mary Ellen Litzinger (an instructor in Penn State’s Department of Kinesiology) in collaboration with the Penn State Women in Engineering Program. Two facets of this course, the career development and gender literature components, were developed by author Barbara Bogue, director of the Women in Engineering Program.

Several factors fed into the development of the course. Undergraduate engineering students are generally unaware of gender issues and gender-related research is rarely if ever integrated into how engineering and engineering related course offerings are developed and implemented 1, 11, 14. As noted by Indira Nair and Sara Majetich, “In designing classroom instruction, we need to recognize and correct the factors that lead large numbers of students, especially women and minorities, to turn away from the subject.(pg. 25).”16 Another factor that influenced the development of the course was anecdotal evidence gathered through the Women in Engineering Program that female students consistently fail to connect wellness issues with their ability to perform well. Finally, kinesiology research points to the fact that exercise and physical activity Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Litzinger, M. E., & Bogue, B. (2004, June), Wellness Strategies For Women Engineers: An Interdisciplinary Course Designed To Help Women Engineering Students Succeed Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13315

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: © 2004 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