New Orleans, Louisiana
June 25, 2016
June 25, 2016
June 25, 2016
Diversity and International Forum
What Underrepresented Minority Engineering Majors Learn from Co-Ops & Internships
Higher education in the United States (U.S.) is an expansive enterprise, comprised of more than 4,300 colleges and universities and approximately 21 million college students enrolled part-time or full-time for study. Women represent the numerical majority on most U.S. college campuses and nearly 40% of college students identify as underrepresented ethnic minorities (URMs) including Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and bi/multiracial (non-White) students. Despite their growing presence in higher education, URMs still represent a small proportion of students majoring in high-demand fields such as engineering. The National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that 39% of URMs "plan to major" in science and engineering fields as freshman, but less than half of these earn an undergraduate engineering degree; rates are startlingly lower for Blacks and Hispanics.
One way to increase retention and graduation rates in engineering for all students is to enhance their overall skills and readiness for engineering-related work by way of cooperative education (i.e., co-op) and internships that offer students "real-life, hands on" experience in their major subject. The Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University identifies such experiences as a "high-impact practice" that likely produces significant learning gains for students. And it is estimated that thousands of students participate in either co-op or internships annually, 67% of recent college classes completed at least one internship, and 56% of employers expect to hire more interns in the future. Despite their widespread use and popularity, we know relatively little about the influence of co-ops and internships on URM students' learning in engineering. This is the gap addressed by this study.
Using a blend of survey and interview data, we will investigate the role that co-ops and internships play on enhancing URM students' learning in engineering in two primary areas (i.e., professional competencies, problem solving) as well as their professional identity. Survey data were collected using an online, web-based survey administered to URM engineering majors at a predominantly White university in the midwest region of the country. Interview data were collected using a semi-structured protocol that asked questions about the nature of the co-op, elicited stories about students' experiences, and what the student believed they gained from the opportunity. Key themes and statistical associations will be presented at the study's main findings. Implications for policy, practice, and teaching will be highlighted for the US and similarly-situated countries.
Strayhorn, T. L., & Johnson, R. M. (2016, June), What Underrepresented Minority Engineering Majors Learn from Co-Ops & Internships Paper presented at 2016 ASEE International Forum, New Orleans, Louisiana. https://peer.asee.org/27273
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