A longitudinal evaluation of factors associated with retaining women in science and engineering

Gandhi, Christina
Major Professor
Douglas L. Epperson
Committee Member
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This study investigated the longitudinal effects of a Living Learning Center (LLC) on women studying engineering, science, and Mathematics; The intervention was designed to decrease social isolation within women studying traditionally male-dominated career fields. Secondary goals included increasing LLC participants' retention within nontraditional academic majors and enhancing LLC participants' academic performance within nontraditional courses of study. Finally, increasing LLC participants' university retention, overall academic performance, self-efficacy, and college adjustment were tertiary objectives. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that women participating in the LLC would report less social isolation, greater major and university retention, higher academic performance, and greater self-efficacy and college adjustment than women studying nontraditional majors housed in traditional residence halls. It was further hypothesized that members of the LLC would experience increasing levels of academic performance, adjustment, and retention over the span of their college careers. Finally, demographic and outcome variables were assessed for their predictive power of university and major retention. Three cohorts were studied in the present evaluation that included 149 LLC participants and 207 non-participants. Results of the investigation were mixed;Results suggested that decreasing social isolation within LLC participants was achieved. Although no differences were found between the participant groups in university retention, findings indicated greater nontraditional major retention among LLC participants than non-participants, and participants achieved higher retention percentage rates than non-participants within each cohort for each year of the study. No differences were found in academic performance between the two groups and all respondents attained relatively high academic grades. Overall, both groups indicated high levels of adjustment, self-efficacy, confidence, social support, academic performance, and retention. Also, a number of variables were found helpful in predicting retention at the university and in nontraditional majors;The study's findings suggest that LLCs can be beneficial in facilitating students' acclimation to the college environment, which in turn may increase retention rates. Evidence was not found to support previous research indicating increased academic performance within participants of LLCs. As one of few studies on the effects of LLCs with women in nontraditional academic majors, the current investigation represents a starting point for other such research.