Academic and social experiences of female community college transfer students in engineering fields at Midwestern University

Bohanna, Darryle
Major Professor
Larry Ebbers
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Currently, there remains a shortage of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields despite recent efforts to increase numbers. The Department of Commerce is predicting that STEM job openings will grow 17% by 2018, which is a much faster rate than most other careers. These are among the highest-paying fields, in part because of the rising demand. Educational institutions in the United States will have to address this issue in order to compete economic leadership globally. High schools, community colleges, and four year institutions must increase awareness and efforts to recruit and retain more women in STEM majors.

The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of female transfer engineering students at Midwestern University. Participants were asked what were their experiences as female engineering students at both the community college and the four-year institution? They were also asked to share about the community college transfer process, student involvement, relationship with faculty and advisors, sense of belonging, interaction with Faculty and staff/mentorship, peer interactions, and academic performance.

Qualitative methods were used provide in-depth information regarding each student's negative and positive experiences at both the community college and Midwestern University as a female transfer engineering student to provide a better understanding the different experiences of being an female engineering student at Midwestern University after transferring from a community college. Students reported how their interest in STEM was discovered early in their educational journey. They shared how their interest in STEM was cultivated in high school, but not so much in college. They also shared how participating in more social academic groups helped them to be more successful.

Findings of the study suggested that there are common threads among the transfer process regarding their sense of belonging, interaction with faculty and staff, and family support. Students noted that, once they made the transition to college, there were not many individuals who continued to motivate them to continue in STEM. However, several participants shared that they had at least one mentor with whom they remained connected for guidance, motivation, and support. A few pointed to the lack of involvement of faculty and staff at both the community college and Midwestern University. Recommendations for practice include that it is essential to have services in place for students during and after they make the transfer to Midwestern University. Having a successful and smooth transfer experience can impact the student to turn a potential negative experience into a positive one.