UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCES AND WOMEN ENGINEERING STUDENT PERSISTENCE
Ayers, LoAnn DG
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Riverside University (a pseudonym), like many universities, has not significantly increased the number of women who graduate with bachelor’s degrees in engineering. The purpose of the study is to understand how the university experiences of women students influence the decision to persist in an undergraduate engineering degree and to understand the role of self-perception in how the students perceive experiences as supporting or hindering their persistence in the major. Archival data, documents and artifacts, observations, individual interviews, and a focus group with women engineering students provide insights into students’ perceived barriers and supports of student success. Analysis of the data results in two major themes. First, students’ self-confidence and self-efficacy influence how women assimilate university experiences as either supportive or diminishing of academic success. Second, university policies and practices shape the campus environment within which student experiences are formed and influence a student’s level of institutional, academic, and social integration. The results of the study indicate opportunities for university leadership to enhance strategies that positively shape students’ institutional, academic and social integration as precursors toward increasing the number of women students who successfully complete undergraduate engineering degrees at Riverside University. Future research is indicated to better understand how gender and gender identity intersects with other demographic factors, such as socio-economic status, immigration status, and life stage (e.g., traditional versus non-traditional students), to support or deter the persistence of engineering students to degree completion.