June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Women in Engineering
23.1371.1 - 23.1371.17
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. https://peer.asee.org/22756
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