Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Engineers from Day One

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Postcard Session 2: Identity and Sense of Belonging

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh Arizona State University

visit author page

Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Dean of Engineering Education at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is Tooker Professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, & Energy. His research interests include educational research methods, communication of research, and k-16+ engineering education. Ganesh’s research is largely focused on studying the impact of k-12 and undergraduate curricula, and teaching-learning processes in both the formal and informal settings. He is also studying entry and persistence in engineering of first generation, women, and under-represented ethnic minorities.

visit author page

author page

Kyle D. Squires Arizona State University Orcid 16x16


James Collofello Arizona State University

visit author page

Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
School of Computing Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

visit author page

author page

Robin R. Hammond Arizona State University

Download Paper |


This Work in Progress aims to address the broadening participation challenge in engineering. This paper will describe a complex adaptive systems approach based project aimed at enhancing entry and persistence in engineering of first-generation students, women, under-represented ethnic minorities, and those with socio-economic need. Sponsored by a national agency, the effort involves a large public comprehensive research university, a county-wide community college system, feeder high-school districts, industry collaborators, and a local foundation partner.

Motivation It is well established that attracting and retaining more first-generation students, women, underrepresented ethnic minorities and those with socio-economic need in the engineering workforce will augment innovation, creativity, and global competitiveness. A diverse workforce will result in enhanced scientific and technological products, services, and solutions that will be better designed and represent all users. Fostering diversity driven creativity requires a collective effort with a cross-section of social institutions to open a multiplicity of pathways for students to enter, retain and persist in engineering degree pathways. The project seeks to address the ways in which K-12 school districts, community colleges, and a university can adapt their actions to meet the goal of diversifying engineering.

Brief Background For many first-generation students, transition to university settings includes developing the confidence to become successful engineering students and envision future possible selves as engineers. A general framework to characterize the challenges in diversifying engineering is: 1) lack of awareness about engineering and what engineers do; 2) absence of enjoyment or an affective response to engineering; 3) dearth of interest in engineering pathways and careers; 4) paucity of opinion formation about the impact of engineering on society; and 5) poor understanding of engineering and its social value. These are further compounded by affordability and challenges with transition to college, especially for first generation students, women, under-represented ethnic minorities, and those with socio-economic need.

Strategies implemented in this project are deliberately designed to foster the many related factors that influence identity development by creating a sense of belonging in students; generating confidence, support, and agency for academic success; advocacy for engineering as socially and personally relevant; and engagement in engineering activities beyond coursework. Mentoring is offered to encourage students’ evolving engineering identities. This project seeks to challenge traditional views of engineering as perceived by students and families. It aims to confront stereotypes about who can become an engineer, and has a focus on making engineering socially and personally relevant to the individual.

Methods A pilot collective alliance is designed to address the broadening participation objectives of enhancing entry and persistence of targeted populations. The alliance aims to identify and develop effective mechanisms to impact entry and persistence in engineering at scale to expand the alliance for the region, serving as a model for the state and other universities nationally. The project will directly impact opportunities for entry into engineering of 500 high school students and 100 community college students. Efforts to support persistence in engineering at the university will directly impact 200 students. Measures of whether participants evince interest and awareness in engineering and the degree to which they develop engineering identity will be assessed to understand the collective impact of alliance efforts. External developmental evaluation of the complex adaptive systems approach taken by the collective alliance will help identify the mechanisms that advance entry and persistence of targeted populations in broadening participation in engineering. We anticipate that the purposefully designed collective impact efforts implemented through this project will result in higher numbers of first-generation students pursuing engineering.

Anticipated Results It is anticipated that the alliance institutions will develop into adaptive systems that respond to the common goal of broadening participation in engineering for first generation students. The ensuing complex adaptive system and the emerging patterns with leverage markers resulting in broadening participation will be identified for expansion. The collective alliance has the potential to transform institutionally engendered identities to be inclusive of the multiple and mutable engineering identities. The project anticipates the development of a model that will be useful regionally and nationally to broaden participation that can reduce and eliminate barriers to engineering education and career pathways.

Ganesh, T. G., & Squires, K. D., & Collofello, J., & Hammond, R. R. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Engineers from Day One Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31286

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: © 2018 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