Factors Supporting Persistence Of Females In Undergraduate Engineering Studies: Insights Gained Through A Qualitative Analysis Of Consistently Performing Programs

Susan Donohue, Larry Richards, Carolyn Vallas
2008 Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Larry Richards is Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia. He also leads the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative (VMSEEI). VMSEEI partners with educators at the Virginia's Curry School of Education and local school districts to develop and distribute engineering teaching kits (ETK). ETKs promote awareness of the nature of engineering, and stimulate excitement about its practice. They also develop an appreciation for the tradeoffs
more » ... the tradeoffs involved in the practice of engineering, and how engineering decisions have an impact society and the environment. Each ETK emphasizes the engineering design approach to problem solving, and includes real-world constraints (budget, cost, time, risk, reliability, safety, and customer needs and demands) and each involves a design challenge that requires creativity and teamwork. Abstract As part of our overall research into the issues of retention/persistence of female undergraduate engineering students, we identified and investigated programs that consistently conferred at least 30%, on average, of their baccalaureate degrees to females over a five year period. A qualitative analysis of six of these programs, all located in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), reveals five factors that encourage female persistence. The HBCUs were selected for this analysis due to the relative homogeneity of their student populations, which helps to reduce the impact of confounding factors on the analysis. In addition, they have managed to be successful with limited resources; the identified factors reflect institutional will and mission rather than economics and therefore are more universally adoptable. The results, obtained primarily through document review, are verified via triangulation with other data sources including interviews and representative sources from the literature. The success of these six programs in enabling female undergraduates to persist to graduation is further proof of the importance of climate, cultural, and environmental factors on the ability of retention/persistence strategies for female undergraduates in engineering to be successful. We recognize that these results are not unknown; however, they provide further evidence that a paradigm shift in the structure and delivery of undergraduate engineering studies is necessary to increase the overall percentage of female undergraduates receiving degrees in engineering. University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguëz (UPR-M). The private universities include Brown
doi:10.18260/1-2--4267 fatcat:ffiydjbuizgwpijuxvdehkxzl4