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Work in Progress: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a 1-credit Chemical Engineering First-Year Seminar

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Teaching and Assessment in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Deborah S. Goldberg University of Maryland, College Park

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Deborah S. Goldberg is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is passionate about teaching and mentoring students to prepare them for diverse careers in chemical engineering and biotechnology.

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Jinwang Zou University of Maryland, College Park

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Jinwang Zou is a Ph.D. candidate in the Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation Program at the University of Maryland College Park. His research interest includes nonlinear structural equation modeling and multilevel modeling.

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Ganesh Sriram University of Maryland

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Dr. Ganesh Sriram is Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of Maryland. His research area is metabolic engineering and he is interested in chemical engineering pedagogy.

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Background & Motivation:

In order to retain and graduate successful chemical engineering students, it is critical for departments to provide students with a clear understanding of the discipline and career options, connect students with resources to enable academic success and assist students with gaining experience outside of the classroom. This can be difficult to accomplish through the standard curriculum, so these items are often left to advising sessions or supplemental events, resulting in many students not being fully informed on these critical topics. We have developed, implemented and evaluated a chemical engineering first-year seminar course to address these key areas to improve student retention and success.

Design & Implementation:

A 1-credit first-year seminar course was designed to help students answer the following questions: 1) What is chemical engineering? 2) What can I do with a degree in chemical engineering? 3) How can I succeed in such an academically rigorous major? 4) How should I prepare for a career or graduate school in chemical engineering? The course included guest lectures by practicing chemical engineers to help students understand the breadth of chemical engineering opportunities and a mentoring program which connected freshmen with successful chemical engineering upperclassmen. Several class sessions focused on skills like time management, and students were required to attend office hours and use other academic resources to promote successful academic habits. Upperclassmen were invited to present on undergraduate research, internship and co-op experiences, after which seminar students crafted mock applications for these opportunities. As a culminating project, students developed a “personal roadmap” delineating their post-graduation goals and how they planned to achieve them.

The seminar was first offered in Spring 2018, currently offered during Fall 2018 and is co-taught by the director of undergraduate studies and a full-time lecturer.


Freshman enrolled in “Material & Energy Balances” who opted to take the seminar course were compared with those who did not take the seminar through pre and post-surveys containing likert-type questions. Baseline comparison including high school and college GPA and SAT scores were assessed to account any opt-in bias. Follow up assessments will be completed at yearly intervals to assess retention, academic performance, participation in engineering activities and eventual career placement.

Data from the initial Spring 2018 cohort (25 seminar students, 22 control students) shows that a larger percentage of students who took the seminar showed gains in likert statements including “I know what chemical engineering is” (88% vs. 41%); “If I am struggling, I know where to turn for help” (64% vs. 23%); and “I know what is required to get a good job after I graduate” (84% vs. 32%). Overall, students enrolled in the seminar course improved or maintained their confidence in obtaining an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering (80%) versus those only enrolled in material and energy balances (55%).

This data suggests that the seminar course may lead to improvements in student retention and success in chemical engineering. Analysis of spring and fall cohort data is ongoing and will be available prior to the conference presentation.

Goldberg, D. S., & Zou, J., & Sriram, G. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a 1-credit Chemical Engineering First-Year Seminar Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33603

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