Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Recent trends in the Aerospace Engineering (AE) industry point to expansion and growth in the sector while its workforce lacks diversity and has an aging population as compared to other engineering majors. One of the ways this requirement can be fulfilled is to retain engineering students who want to pursue AE as a career. Students usually show intent in pursuing a career in AE by choosing AE as their college major. Multi-institutional research on undergraduate engineering trends (i.e. enrollment and graduation) report that AE has lagged cumulative engineering for the past decade even when minorities and gender were considered.
With the goal to increase persistence in AE, this study looked at a population of students who showed intent to pursue AE in their freshmen year at a large Midwestern University in U.S. and subsequently left the major. The study examined survey data of over 1200 students collected over six years through binary logistic regression while employing multiple imputations to reduce biases due to missing data. The quantitative analysis highlighted high school preparation especially in math and physics, and student self-reported analytical skills as indicators of academic success and persistence in AE. Additionally, aspects related to academic experiences and academic integration were also important.
With little literature available on students who migrate to other STEM majors and none on specific to AE, the study interviewed nine students who left AE for other STEM majors before the end of their junior year. These students, who have the required skills for engineering, narrated their experiences during their time in AE and their reasons for leaving the major which were audio recorded and transcribed for analysis. The qualitative analysis revealed that these students left mostly because their interest in AE declined. While some students reported the same reasons as students who leave engineering altogether or a spark in interest in a new career, a few students reported that AE constrained their future career options and that it is tough to get a job in the AE industry. Based on the above mixed methodology results, recommendations for students and the department have been discussed which may increase persistence in AE at the University.
Devayan Debashis Bir
Bir, Devayan Debashis, "Investigating persistence in an Aerospace Engineering Program" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17405.