Pathways of Engineering Graduates

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How do students decide to major in engineering? What educational experiences and resources are most effective in helping sustain and expand their interests? What are the roles of internships in creating connections between school-learning and professional learning? How can theory and practice be better integrated in the learning process? What factors contribute to students’ choices for “next steps” after college? How can educational practices positively reach more students?

These are just some of the questions we have been researching in DEL for over 15 years.

Academic Pathways

  • Some of our earliest work was focused on the four-year engineering college experience at a variety of U.S colleges and universities, as part of the Academic Pathways Study (APS), funded by the NSF Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education from 2003 to 2010. CAEE Co-PIs: Sheri Sheppard (Stanford), Cindy Atman (UW), Lorraine Fleming (Howard),Karl Smith (Purdue), Reed Stevens (Northwestern), & Ruth Streveler (Purdue).

Engineering Pathways

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    We have researched the work of early career engineers, with particular emphasis on what skills and abilities are needed in practice and where and how these skills and abilities are learned, as part of the NSF-funded Engineering Pathways Study (EPS). In this study we have also explored the career paths of those who completed an engineering degree but whose professional work out-of-college is not classified as “engineering” (this group makes up some 30% of engineering graduates). Co-PIs: Sheri Sheppard (Stanford), Cindy Atman (UW), Holly Matusovich (VT), Ron Miller (Mines), & Ruth Streveler (Purdue).

  • Our most recent project straddles school and work, looking at how engineering students think about, develop, and act on career opportunities; Professional Engineering Pathways: A Longitudinal Study of Early Career Preparedness and Decision-Making This longitudinal NSF-funded study, involving six engineering schools and being lead by ASU, is designed to follow students through the college-to-work world transition, to see how their plans are developed and then realized after they graduate. A major goal of this study is to help improve career-related resources available to engineering students. Lead: Samantha Brunhaver (ASU). Co-PIs: Sheri Sheppard (Stanford), Holly Matusovich (VT), & Ruth Streveler (Purdue).

Fostering Innovative Generations Studies

  • A second career-pathway study that DEL is leading is sponsored by the NSF-sponsored Epicenter. Like the Professional Engineering Pathways Study, this Epicenter research (as part of Epicenter's larger set of Fostering Innovative Generations Studies, or FIGS) is longitudinal, looking at students' interests and career choices pre- and post-graduation. Here, however, the emphasis is on students’ innovation and entrepreneurship interests and their career pathway design. Stanford University Professors Sheri Sheppard, Tom Byers, and Kathy Eisenhardt are the Principal Investigators of the Epicenter initiative.
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