The Career Development Center Learning Outcomes Team designed and implemented an extensive program entitled “The Engineering 102 Project.” The goal of the project was to assist students, mostly freshman, identify their interests and validate their selection of an engineering discipline or consider other options. By discussing these options and presenting important decision-making components such as the balance between interests, values and abilities early in their studies, the CDC sought to empower the students to make sound decisions regarding their majors and careers. The project was timely in that while the United States has seen improvements in engineering graduation rates, statistics nonetheless show that approximately 40 to 50 percent of engineering students will change out of the major (Stephens, 2013).
The CDC worked collaboratively with Research Associate Lily Gossage and Jeyanthy Kernik, lecturer and coordinator for Engineering 102 from the College of Engineering, to deliver the program and collect data required to measure student learning outcomes. A total of 447 Engineering 102 students completed the Strong Interest Inventory in class during the spring 2013 semester. One week after completion of the inventory, career counselors visited all 13 sections of ENGR 102 to distribute individual hardcopy results and explain relevant personality theory. To further support students in their career explorations, students received results via emails which included clickable links to resources such as O*NET OnLine database of occupational information (www.onetonline.org). Throughout the process, data were collected through pre- and post-assessments and group interviews of 68 students.
The semester long project provided important insight into freshman engineering students. Most notably, many students were optimistic regarding their mathematics aptitude, sometimes unrealistically so, and they felt affirmed in their major selections. During group interviews, many students expressed readiness to begin core engineering classes to test their abilities. They also wanted to hear directly from experienced engineers about work roles to help them decide if an engineering career path was right for them.
Knowing that interest in a course of study does not necessarily translate into success in the major, the CDC decided to take the Engineering 102 Project to the next level by focusing its efforts on students at risk or on probation. The CDC Learning Outcomes Team received a grant for the 2013–2014 academic year to create a program to apply a counseling model to further support students in selecting an appropriate major based on self-examination of academic strengths, interests and career decision-making self-efficacy. With the support of the Engineering Student Success Center, the CDC is currently identifying students who may benefit from this program.
The Division of Student Services Student Learning Outcome initiative focuses on how programs and services impact student knowledge, skills and competencies.
Stephens R. 2013. Aligning engineering education and experience to meet the needs of industry and society. Available online at www.nae.edu/Publications/Bridge/81221/81233.aspx?layoutChange=Print