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What Does Career and Personal Success Look Like? Engineering Students' Projections for Post-Graduation Plans

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Life After Graduation

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors

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Aisosa Ayela-Uwangue Arizona State University


Micah Lande Arizona State University

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Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering programs and Tooker Professor at the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches human-centered engineering design, design thinking, and design innovation project courses. Dr. Lande researches how technical and non-technical people learn and apply a design process to their work.  He is interested in the intersection of designerly epistemic identities and vocational pathways. Dr. Lande is the PI/co-PI on NSF-funded projects focused on engineering doing and making, citizen science and engineering outreach, and “revolutionizing” engineering education. He has also been an instructor and participant in the NSF Innovation Corps for Learning program. He received his B.S in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology) and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Education) from Stanford University.

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This is a Research Paper and Evidence-Based Practice Paper to explore how graduating undergraduate engineering students conceive of career and personal success. Through a qualitative review of “vision plans” students create to map to their first 5 to 10 years post-graduation plans, we have categorized areas for success that include themes of production, experience, character and relationships. Through in-class exercises in a senior year (non-capstone) course on professional orientation, 30 students used exercises and assignments that have them use design thinking, inbound networking, and informational interviews to better identify and understand possible vocational pathways. A culminating activity is for them to imagine and report not just one possible career option but multiple possible parallel pathways through a “vision plan” through the 5-10 years after graduation. By way of these “vision plans” created by students, we have begun to better understand students’ perception of success and how this perception influences their initial career decisions. This data set will be supplemented by a group of freshmen engineering students undertaking this process right now.

We aim to be able to present a multiplicity of ways students consider career and personal success. These are questions that students, engineers, universities and corporations grapple with in preparing, recruiting and supervising aspiring and practicing engineers. Students’ identity of success in their career choice continues to evolve as they transition through various stages of their undergraduate years, complete their undergraduate degree programs, and begin their careers in industry. This qualitative study explores what students consider to be success and how this shapes their career pathways.

Engineering students are directed toward the professions in engineering as a default. The undergraduate engineering curriculum aims to prepare students in technical competencies as well as professional skills towards a career trajectory in STEM. We hope that this work can illustrate more nuanced decisions for students to consider for their post-graduation season of life. Findings from this study will be useful to universities and colleges in understanding how to impact student success during their undergraduate years, as well as improve retention. Companies will also find this information valuable to impact engineers’ success and retention in industry.

Ayela-Uwangue, A., & Lande, M. (2017, June), What Does Career and Personal Success Look Like? Engineering Students' Projections for Post-Graduation Plans Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29115

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