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WIP: What's your major? First-year engineering students’ confidence in their major choice

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2018 FYEE Conference


Glassboro, New Jersey

Publication Date

July 24, 2018

Start Date

July 24, 2018

End Date

July 26, 2018

Conference Session

Technical Session I

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference Sessions

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Paper Authors


Katherine M Ehlert Clemson University

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Katherine M. Ehlert is a doctoral student in the Engineering and Science Education department in the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences at Clemson University. She earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and her MS in Mechanical Engineering focusing on Biomechanics from Cornell University. Prior to her enrollment at Clemson, Katherine worked as a Biomedical Engineering consultant in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include identity development through research experiences for engineering students, student pathways to engineering degree completion, and documenting the influence of co-op experiences on academic performance.

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Marisa K. Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Marisa K. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, “Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Sarah Jane Grigg Clemson University

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Dr. Sarah Grigg is a senior lecturer in General Engineering at Clemson University. She is a human factors design engineer specializing in process improvement and error mitigation across various contexts including engineering education, healthcare, and transportation. She received Ph.D., M.S. and B.S. degrees in Industrial Engineering, a Certificate in Engineering Education, and a Masters degree in Business Administration from Clemson University.

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In this work-in-progress study, the engineering identities of students enrolled in a first-year engineering (FYE) program were surveyed to investigate whether students identify with engineering (in general or with a specific engineering major) during their first year and how differences in identities impact intent to persist in engineering. Literature suggests a strong engineering identity is linked to student retention and can positively impact a student’s trajectory within an engineering program. To investigate these interactions, a survey was distributed at a large public institution in the southeast at the beginning and end of the Fall semester. Most students reported they had decided on a specific engineering major even in the beginning of their first engineering course. While students are relatively confident in that major choice at the beginning of the year, their confidence increased by the end of the semester. Future work will invite students for interviews to elucidate understanding in how a student’s views of the engineering profession affect their FYE experience and the role the FYE curriculum has in their anticipated engineering major and themselves as engineers.

Ehlert, K. M., & Orr, M. K., & Grigg, S. J. (2018, July), WIP: What's your major? First-year engineering students’ confidence in their major choice Paper presented at 2018 FYEE Conference, Glassboro, New Jersey.

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