Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day
January 24, 2021
January 24, 2021
January 28, 2021
Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions
Women in Engineering Multi-Mode Mentoring and Undergraduate Research
Keywords: Engineering, Gender, Undergraduate
This presentation illustrates the creation of the Women in Engineering Multi-Mode Mentoring and Undergraduate Research (WEM3UR) Program to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation of female engineering students through a mentoring network that includes undergraduate research engagement, plus social, academic, and professional support. WEM3UR builds on the Women in Engineering program and the Office of Undergraduate Research. This presentation outlines the creation and start of the program in Fall 2020 as an Engineering Information Foundation Women in Engineering Grant recipient.
Overview of the Problem
The daunting national statistics of women in engineering are evidence of the disadvantages that society is encountering with the shortage that occurs as talented women are lost through the engineering higher education pipeline. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, 21.9% of engineering bachelor’s degrees were awarded to females in 2018, an increase from 17.8% in 2009 (ASEE, 2018; ASEE, 2009). This shows that in the last nine years there has been a 4.1 percentage point increase, which is important to note showing that some progress is being made in engineering for female students.
A “…woman’s engineering identification may be increased by helping students understand how engineering is useful and increasing their sense of belonging in engineering” (Bossart & Bharti, 2017). It is not necessarily that female engineering students who leave the major lack the academic capability of succeeding, but rather their perception of the engineering profession and lacking a sense of belonging. This program will intervene by exposing students to female role models including alumnae, faculty, and peers who demonstrate a positive contribution to society and a sense of belonging. We will use a model that takes advantage of the resources we have in place, such as our Office of Undergraduate Research, our communication network with alumnae and access to female engineering faculty (25% of tenured/tenure-track engineering faculty are women at Cal University; ASEE, 2017), to create effective mentoring and professional experiences that will offer support and an increased sense of belonging to our female engineering students.
The Women in Engineering (WE) program was established in 2012 as a Dean’s Office initiative to provide young women the resources and supportive services to succeed in engineering. WE serves female undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in the College of Engineering. WE focuses on recruitment and retention efforts, as well as overall environment enhancement programs. WE is open to all College of Engineering students and membership is not required.
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) was established in 2013 to increase undergraduate student participation in research programs. Participation in research as an undergraduate has been proven to not only expand a student's academic experience at Cal University but also improve retention and graduation rates.
Overall Cal University Engineering undergraduate female enrollment has increased from 13% in 2012 (when WE was founded) to 20% in 2019. In order to make further strides in increasing female engineering enrollment and persistence, we are implementing a mentoring program, combined with undergraduate research engagement, to provide students with an increased sense of belonging and an increased awareness of how the engineering profession is useful and makes positive impacts to society.
Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Success
In order to assess the impact of undergraduate research on student success, the Office of Undergraduate Research has been conducting a campus-wide Research Climate Survey annually since 2015 with a typical response rate of 15% (3,000 – 4,000 respondents each year.) This survey collects students’ self-report of participation in research and project-related activities. This survey reaches students from across campus, regardless of their interaction with the Office of Undergraduate Research. The data collection and analysis were conducted by an external evaluation partner. The goal of this survey is to compare student success indicators (retention, graduation, GPA, etc.) for students who have participated in research versus a matched peer sample that did not participate in research.
Results of the Research Climate Survey Analysis: Students who participated in more research activities were significantly more likely to graduate than students who participated in fewer research activities. The odds of graduating for students who participated in research were three times higher than those for students who did not participate in research. And the benefit of research participation is cumulative. In fact, the odds of graduating increased by more than 1.5 times for each additional research activity students participated in.
Mentorship Program: WEM3UR
The WEM3UR Program intends to increase recruitment and retention rates through the establishment of a mentoring model that will incorporate the following stakeholders: engineering faculty, engineering alumnae and female undergraduate engineering students. Two methods of mentoring will be utilized: in-person mentoring and E-mentoring.
The following are the program goals and objectives: 1. Create an academic and social supportive network for female engineering students. 2. Increase awareness of how engineers make a positive impact on society. 3. Increase career and internship opportunities for female engineering students. 4. Increase female engineering student participation in undergraduate research. 5. Increase recruitment, retention and graduation of female engineering students by fostering a supportive community and enriching their experiences within the College of Engineering.
Female engineering students in WEM3UR will participate in peer mentoring from upper division female engineering students and group mentoring with engineering faculty and women in industry. WEM3UR will hire student assistants to offer peer mentoring for female engineering students. Lower division female engineering students will be paired with upper division female engineering students for peer mentoring and will engage in group mentoring with engineering faculty. Peer mentoring can draw on relatable experiences and “…peers can provide emotional and psychological support that facilitates individual learning and career success” (Parker, Hall & Kram, 2008). Engineering alumnae and industry members will provide mentoring to current female engineering students electronically utilizing e-mail, social media and video conferencing, known as “E-Mentoring”. E-Mentoring provides an accessible and cost-effective method for alumnae to communicate with students and when industry-based mentoring is utilized, interventions that seek to recruit and retain females in engineering are more likely to be successful (Ilumoka, Milanovic & Grant, 2017). Resume review, interview preparation, job announcements, and examples of engineering’s positive impact on society will be included in the above interactions.
Female engineering students will be introduced to the programs available through OUR. OUR offers a variety of programs to encourage and assist students in undergraduate research engagement. One such program is the Achieve Scholars Program. The Achieve Scholars Program helps students in all majors connect to Peer and Faculty mentors to learn about research and career development opportunities.
WE has a proven track record of successfully implementing new programs with seed funding and then continuing them past the initial funding period. Examples include Introduce a Girl to Engineering, which was funded with a grant and has been continued every year since with industry sponsors and donations, and our K-12 Female Engineer Program, which was funded with a grant and has continued and grown every year. WE and its various programs have been recognized with national awards including the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence in 2016, Inspiring Program in STEM in 2019 and 2018 by Insight into Diversity Magazine, the Women in Engineering Initiative Award in 2019 by the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), and Program of the Year in 2019 by the Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD).
The Cal University College of Engineering is one of the largest and most diverse in the nation. Currently, there are 1,200 female engineering students (21% of total engineering enrollment) enrolled at Cal University. Engineering student diversity is comprised of 23% Asian/Pacific Islander; 3% Black/African American; 39% Hispanic/Latino; 20% White; <1% American Indian/Alaskan Native; 4% Two or More; 7% Non-Resident Alien; and 3% Unknown. WE is well-positioned to make a large and positive impact on the future diversity of the engineering workforce.
The goals and objectives for this project are: 1) Create an academic and social supportive network for female engineering students. 2) Increase awareness of how engineers make a positive impact on society. 3) Increase career and internship opportunities for female engineering students. 4) Increase female engineering student participation in undergraduate research. 5) Increase recruitment, retention and graduation of female engineering students by fostering a supportive community and enriching their experiences within the College of Engineering and through undergraduate research engagement.
These objectives will be evaluated using a mixed-method design in which both qualitative and quantitative indicators will be used. Formative evaluation and summative assessment will occur. Several methods of data collection will be used: semi structured interviews with the WEM3UR alumnae, industry representatives and faculty participants; focus groups with student participants and staff from WE and OUR; observations of in-person mentoring; document collection of the curricula of the mentorship model; and participant pretest and posttest survey. The design evaluation and survey instruments have been submitted to the university Institutional Research Board (IRB) and are awaiting approval. The data will be analyzed to address if the objectives for this project were achieved. Quantitative data will include descriptive statistics (characteristics of WEM3UR participants) and inferential statistics (pretest and posttest survey). Analysis of qualitative data will include open, axial, and selective coding of all qualitative information (interviews, focus groups, observations). To maintain the confidentiality of participants, the analysis of all data will be presented in aggregate and first-hand accounts will be unidentified.
Twenty-five percent of lower division female engineering students are currently being recruited to participate in WEM3UR. Five upper division female engineering students have already been recruited for the 2020-2021 academic school year to participate in WEM3UR as paid peer mentors. Five female faculty are currently being recruited and five women working in engineering industry have already agreed to participate in the program as mentors. Once all of the participants have been recruited and the IRB protocol has been approved, the research will start in late August. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all classes will be conducted virtually for the Fall semester at Cal University. Since WEM3UR contains an E-Mentoring component, this will be utilized heavily until it is safe to resume back to campus in a face-to-face environment. The participants will all take a pretest survey and observations will be conducted in a virtual format of the peer and faculty mentoring sessions. These two data sets will be reported during this presentation.
This presentation introduced the creation of the WEM3UR Program to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation of female engineering students through a mentoring network that includes undergraduate research engagement. The logistics of the program were introduced and the evaluation of the program was described in detail. The results of the two data sets of the pretest survey and the observations will be presented once data collection starts in August 2020. This work was supported through an Engineering Information Foundation Women in Engineering Grant 2020.
Rigden, K. (2021, January), Women in Engineering Multi-Mode Mentoring and Undergraduate Research: Semester 1 Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day . https://peer.asee.org/36143
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015