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What Most Facilitates Thriving for Undergraduate Engineering Students? A Rank Order Investigation of Engineering Experts

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

ERM: Conceptualizations of Engineering and Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Julianna Gesun Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Julianna Gesun, Ph.D., is currently a National Science Foundation/American Society for Engineering Education engineering postdoctoral fellow and postdoctoral diversity and innovations scholar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire. Her research focuses on discovering and understanding strength factors that contribute to more thriving undergraduate engineering students and aspects of engineering culture and contexts that support thriving. Her research interests intersect the fields of positive psychology, engineering education, and human development to understand the intrapersonal, cognitive, social, behavioral, contextual, cultural, and outcomes factors that influence thriving in engineering. She received her Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue University, where she was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and the winner of Purdue's 2021 Three Minute Thesis competition for her work in developing research and courses on engineering thriving. She also received dual bachelor's degrees in Industrial Engineering and Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her prior work experiences include product management, consulting, tutoring, marketing, and information technology.

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Julia Rizzo University of New Hampshire

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Julia Rizzo graduated from the University of New Hampshire in December 2021 with a B.A in Psychology. She is currently working in research under Dr. Gesun in discovering factors important to promoting thriving in engineering undergraduate students. Julia is extremely interested in education, learning, and research as she wishes to continue her education and obtain a M.A. in the field of School Psychology. Julia's research interests include understanding complex family systems and the role the family plays in a child's ability to succeed. By working with Dr. Gesun and her research interests, Julia is able to understand thriving from an alternative perspective, which will aide her in future work.

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This research paper explores engineering experts' perceptions of the most important factors of thriving for undergraduate engineering students. Faculty, staff, and members of the engineering education system play a vital role in creating environments, and forming relationships with students conducive to thriving. The study in this paper builds upon prior work on engineering thriving that identified 147 factors developed from a literature review, refined with expert consultation. Out of the long list of factors, little is known regarding the most important factors that can serve as a starting point for engineering experts with limited resources to create environments and relationships that support more thriving engineering students.

In this paper, we analyze ranked order data to investigate the most important internal thriving competencies. Participants include 47 engineering experts i.e., engineering administrators, professors, staff, and advisers. To find which competencies were perceived as most important to engineering thriving, each expert was asked to generate and define up to ten competencies that they considered to be most important, then rank these competencies in order of importance. During data analysis, ranked competencies were scored on a reverse ordinal points basis, with the most important rankings receiving 10 points and the least important rankings receiving 1 point.

Overall, the top five most important competencies were Communication/Listening Skills (overall score = 104), Help-seeking/ Resourcefulness (overall score = 104), Teamwork (overall score = 97), Time Management (overall score = 96), and Resilience (overall score = 95). Findings from this study highlight the importance of intrapersonal, social, and behavioral competencies, providing a starting point for future work developing a survey of thriving for engineering students. Furthermore, these findings provide a greater insight into which high-impact competencies engineering faculty, staff, and administrators can focus on when creating environments conducive to student thriving and interacting directly with students when teaching, supporting, advising, and mentoring.

Gesun, J., & Rizzo, J. (2022, August), What Most Facilitates Thriving for Undergraduate Engineering Students? A Rank Order Investigation of Engineering Experts Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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