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ERIC Number: ED539622
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jun
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Engineering Students Define Diversity: An Uncommon Thread. Research Brief
Fleming, Lorraine; Ledbetter, Sislena; Williams, Dawn; McCain, Janice
Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (NJ1)
Diversity has taken on many meanings, depending on the context in which it is used and the person using it. Today's engineering students have come to embody diversity as an extension of their home, academic and social environments. The result is a group of students that often show indifference to diversity (however defined) and the impact it will have on their professional careers. This study used grounded theory, an inductive, analytical approach, to develop the concepts that ultimately informed the research. Findings from structured interview data from 94 (out of 160) sophomore students participating in a longitudinal study called the Academic Pathways Study were analyzed. The four participating schools (referred to by pseudonyms) include: (1) Technical Public Institution (TPI), a public mid-western university specializing in teaching engineering and technology; (2) Urban Private University (UPU), a private, mid-Atlantic Historically Black University; (3) Large Public University (LPU), a large public university in the Northwest US; and (4) Suburban Private University (SPU), a medium-sized private university on the West Coast. The major findings of this study are divided into three primary categories: (1) defining diversity; (2) gender roles and identity; and (3) racial identity. Students defined diversity in many ways. Among the familiar themes were diversity of gender, race, culture, and ideology. The less familiar themes included diversity of major, geography, socio-economic status, and political affiliation. When students were asked to what extent their gender affects their views of becoming an engineer, two statistically significant relationships were found. First, female and male students had differing opinions about the impact that gender has on their becoming an engineer and second, that a lack of role models was significantly associated with being female. Almost two thirds (63%) of students said that their gender did not affect their views of becoming an engineer. However, both females and males voice many different opinions about the impact of gender on their educations. Students were also asked to share views about how they believed their racial identity affected their views of becoming an engineer. Eighty-one percent answered "no," that race had no impact on their engineering aspirations. These findings together demonstrate a changing attitude toward diversity among college age students. As the multicultural landscape continues to broaden, radial identity is a term that must be operationalized, and not generalized, for discussion among engineering academicians to incorporate in the teaching and learning process.
Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education. Available from: University of Washington. Box 352183, Seattle, WA 98195. Fax: 206-221-3161; e-mail: celtad@engr.; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of Washington, Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE)