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Why Do Students Leave? An Investigation Into Why Well-Supported Students Leave a First-Year Engineering Program

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Focusing on Student Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

19

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33559

Download Count

63

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Paper Authors

biography

Melissa Lynn Morris West Virginia University

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Melissa Morris is currently a Teaching Associate Professor for the Freshman Engineering Program, in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University (WVU). She graduated Summa cum Laude with a BSME in 2006, earned a MSME in 2008, and completed her doctorate in mechanical engineering in 2011, all from WVU. At WVU, she has previously served as the Undergraduate and Outreach Advisor for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department and the Assistant Director of the Center for Building Energy Efficiency. She has previously taught courses such as Thermodynamics, Thermal Fluids Laboratory, and Guided Missiles Systems, as well as serving as a Senior Design Project Advisor for Mechanical Engineering Students. Her research interests include energy and thermodynamic related topics. Since 2007 she has been actively involved in recruiting and outreach for the Statler College, as part of this involvement Dr. Morris frequently makes presentations to groups of K-12 students, as well as perspective WVU students and their families.

Dr. Morris was selected as a Statler College Outstanding Teacher for 2012, the WVU Honors College John R. Williams Outstanding Teacher for 2012, and the 2012 Statler College Teacher of the Year.

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biography

Robin A. M. Hensel West Virginia University

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Robin A. M. Hensel, Ed.D., is the Assistant Dean for Freshman Experience in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University. While her doctorate is in Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on higher education teaching of STEM fields, she also holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in Mathematics. Dr. Hensel has over seven years of experience working in engineering teams and in project management and administration as a Mathematician and Computer Systems Analyst for the U. S. Department of Energy as well as more than 25 years of experience teaching mathematics, statistics, computer science, and freshman engineering courses in higher education institutions. Currently, she leads a team of faculty who are dedicated to providing first year engineering students with a high-quality, challenging, and engaging educational experience with the necessary advising, mentoring, and academic support to facilitate their transition to university life and to prepare them for success in their engineering discipline majors and future careers.

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biography

Joseph Dygert West Virginia University

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Ph.D student in aerospace engineering at West Virginia University

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Abstract

This research paper examines retaining traditionally underrepresented minorities (URM) in STEM fields. The retention of URM students in STEM fields is a current area of focus for engineering education research. After an extensive literature review and examination of best practices in retaining the targeted group, a cohort-based, professional development program with a summer bridge component was developed at a large land grant institution in the Mid-Atlantic region. One programmatic goal was to increase retention of underrepresented students in the engineering college which, ultimately, is expected to increase diversity in the engineering workforce. The program has a strong focus on cohort building, teamwork, mentorship, and developing an engineering identity. Students participate in a week-long summer bridge component prior to the start of their first semester. During their first year, students take a class as a cohort each semester, participate in an industrial site visit, and interact with faculty mentors. Since 2016 the program has been funded by a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant, which provides scholarships to eligible program participants. Scholarships start at $4,500 during year one, and are renewable for up to five years, with an incremental increase of $1000 annually for years one through four. Even with the professional development program providing support and scholarships alleviating the financial burden of higher education, students are still leaving engineering. The 2016-2017 cohort consisted of five scholarship recipients, of which three remained in engineering as of fall 2018, the beginning of their third year. The 2017-2018 cohort consisted of seven scholarship recipients, of which five remained in engineering as of fall 2018, their second year. While the numbers of this scholarship group are small, their retention rate is alarmingly below the engineering college retention rate. Why? This paper presents the results of additional investigations of the overall program cohorts (not only the scholarship recipients) and their non-program peers with the aim of determining predictors of retention in the targeted demographic. Student responses to three survey instruments: GRIT, MSLQ, and LAESE were analyzed to determine why students were leaving engineering, even though the program they participated in was strongly rooted in retention based literature. Student responses on program exit surveys were also analyzed to determine non-programmatic elements that may cause students to leave engineering. Results of this research is presented along with “lessons learned” and suggested actions to increase retention among the targeted population.

Morris, M. L., & Hensel, R. A. M., & Dygert, J. (2019, June), Why Do Students Leave? An Investigation Into Why Well-Supported Students Leave a First-Year Engineering Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33559

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