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Why Some Community College Students Choose Engineering and Some Don't

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Issues of Outreach and Interest in Engineering

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1371.1 - 23.1371.17



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Paper Authors


Mary R. Anderson-Rowland Arizona State University

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Mary Anderson-Rowland, Arizona State University
MARY R. ANDERSON-ROWLAND is the PI of an NSF STEP grant to work with five
non-metropolitan community colleges to produce more engineers, especially female and
underrepresented minority engineers. She also directs two academic scholarship programs, including one for transfer students. An Associate Professor in Computing, Informatics, and Systems Design Engineering, she was the Associate Dean of Student Affairs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU from 1993-2004. Anderson-Rowland was named a top 5% teacher in the Fulton Schools of Engineering for 2009-2010. She received the WEPAN Engineering Educator Award 2009, ASEE Minorities Award 2006, the SHPE Educator of the Year 2005, and the National Engineering Award in 2003, the highest honor given by AAES. In 2002 she was named the Distinguished Engineering Educator by the Society of Women Engineers. She has over 180 publications primarily in the areas of recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minority engineering and computer science students. Her awards are based on her mentoring of students, especially women and underrepresented minority students, and her research in the areas of recruitment and retention. A SWE and ASEE Fellow, she is a frequent speaker on career opportunities and diversity in engineering.

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Armando A. Rodriguez Arizona State University

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Prior to joining the ASU Electrical Engineering faculty in 1990, Dr. Armando A. Rodriguez worked at MIT, IBM, AT&T Bell Laboratories and Raytheon Missile Systems. He has also consulted for Eglin Air Force Base, Boeing Defense and Space Systems, Honeywell and NASA. He has published over 200 technical papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings – over 60 with students. He has authored three engineering texts on classical controls, linear systems, and multivariable control. Dr. Rodriguez has given over 70 invited presentations - 13 plenary - at international and national forums, conferences and corporations. Since 1994, he has directed an extensive engineering mentoring-research academic success and professional development (ASAP) program that has served over 500 students. These efforts have been supported by NSF STEP, S-STEM, and CSEM grants as well as industry. Dr. Rodriguez' research interests include: control of nonlinear distributed parameter, and sampled-data systems; modeling, simulation, animation, and real-time control (MoSART) of Flexible Autonomous Machines operating in an uncertain Environment (FAME); design and control of micro-air vehicles (MAVs), control of bio-economic systems, renewable resources, and sustainable development; control of semiconductor, (hypersonic) aerospace, robotic, and low power electronic systems. Recently, he has worked closely with NASA researchers on the design of scramjet-powered hypersonic vehicles. Dr. Rodriguez’ honors include: AT&T Bell Laboratories Fellowship; Boeing A.D. Welliver Fellowship; ASU Engineering Teaching Excellence Award; IEEE International Outstanding Advisor Award; White House Presidential Excellence Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring; Ralf Yorque Memorial Best Paper Prize. Dr. Rodriguez has also served on various national technical committees and panels. He is currently serving on the following National Academies panels: Survivability and Lethality Analysis, Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Autonomous Systems. Dr. Rodriguez received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990. Personal Web site:

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Anita Grierson Arizona State University

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Anita Grierson is the Director of the METS Center in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. She guides the activities of the METS Center and oversees its staff of engineering transfer students. Ms. Grierson has over 12 years corporate experience in Program Management, Business Development, and Biomechanical Engineering, with products as diverse as air bag systems for helicopters, body armor, and orthopedic implants. She received her Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1990, her Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University in 1994, and a Masters in Business Administration from Arizona State University in 2000.

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Why Some Community College Students Choose Engineering and Some Don’tThe general public knows little about engineering. Some people still believe that an engineer is“one who drives a train.” The word engineer may be associated with “engine” and “someonewho “designs and builds things.” This does not sound very exciting. Authored by a Committeeon Public Understanding of Engineering Messages, “Changing the Conversation” was publishedin 2008. Slogans and tag lines were tested for their appeal to adults, teens, underrepresentedminorities, and females. Using the results of this research, the University of Colorado, Boulderhas sharply increased their recruitment of women into engineering and now boasts that 23.6% oftheir engineering students are female, well above the national average of 19%.For the past 10 years, engineering outreach programs have been conducted by a major universitywith local and rural community colleges. Currently, in the fourth year of a National ScienceFoundation STEP grant with a focus on five rural community colleges (CCs), engineeringprofessors and staff go into these classrooms and encourage students to consider engineering as acareer. The results of the “Changing the Conversation” research are being used along with ourown experience. This paper is an attempt to quantify how these potential transfer students viewand understand engineering. A survey was given to students at four non-metropolitan CCs andthen analyzed and compared from school to school to answer the following questions: “What arethe characteristics of your ideal career?”, “What about engineering attracts or does not attractyou?”, “Are the views on engineering the same from CC to CC?”, “Is there a difference inperception of engineering and computer science by gender, ethnicity, or school?”The students are first surveyed on their perception of an ideal career: “What do they want to dowhen they grow-up?” Next the students are asked to estimate their general understanding ofengineering. Then those students for which engineering is their career choice are asked toidentify from a list which factors are true for them in this choice. Example factors include: goodincome, quantity of jobs available, job location, exciting work, desire to help people, and desireto make a difference. If a student has not chosen engineering as a career, s/he is asked to checkall factors that led to that decision. Factors include: do not like math, not good enough in math,do not like physics, do not like computers, don’t know much about engineering, don’t want to bea “geek” or “nerd”, and think that engineering is too hard.The survey results are analyzed for trends by age, gender, ethnicity, and school. Differences arenoted such as “Want a challenging career” was the most important to students at one school,while “Want a good paying job” was the most important factor for choosing engineering atanother school. Based on the results, suggestions are given for improving the messages that wegive to CC potential engineering transfer students.

Anderson-Rowland, M. R., & Rodriguez, A. A., & Grierson, A. (2013, June), Why Some Community College Students Choose Engineering and Some Don't Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22756

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