Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Douglas L. Epperson


This study examined factors related to persistence in engineering and related college majors, with attention to women's experiences. Participants were 278 upper-class undergraduates (135 women and 143 men) who as freshmen entered the college of engineering at a large midwestern university. Persisters in engineering, physical science, and mathematics were compared with those who did not persist. Participants completed a survey questionnaire, including variables predicted by self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1986), expectancy-valence theory (Vroom, 1964), and interest congruence theory (Holland, 1973). Social support/environmental barriers, grade point averages, pre-college ability, and interests also were included. Four sources of self-efficacy information (personal performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal) were measured;Theoretical variables were compared in predicting persistence status, using logistic regression analysis. A cumulative model was built, adding significant theoretical blocks. Ability was the most important factor, with self-efficacy, social support/environmental barriers, and interest congruence adding significantly to the model after ability. The expectancy-valence variables did not contribute to the model beyond ability. Gender also did not significantly contribute to the model. These findings suggest that at the college level gender is not an important factor in predicting persistence. The final model fit the data better than any subset, correctly identifying 57.4% of the nonpersisters and 91.4% of the persisters;Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine if the sources of self-efficacy and ability predicted levels of mathematics self-efficacy. Personal performance accomplishments was the best predictor of level of mathematics self-efficacy, followed by ability. Vicarious learning accounted for some variance. Findings suggest that mathematics self-efficacy is strongly related to actual and perceived performance accomplishments;Overall these results suggest that decisions to persist in engineering and related college majors are multifaceted and complex, and at the college level influencing factors are similar for men and women. These findings have implications for designing interventions to promote persistence of women and men in engineering and related majors.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Kathleen Galvin Schaefers



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

227 pages