Characterizing Doctoral Engineering Student Socialization: Narratives of Mental Health, Decisions to Persist, and Consideration of Career Trajectories

Emma Hocker, Ellen Zerbe, Catherine G.P. Berdanier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

This research full paper explores interview data with N=36 engineering graduate students to understand the factors and characteristics of graduate socialization, with the effort of better preparing students to succeed in doctoral programs. This research is motivated by the alarming fact that nearly one-third of engineering doctoral students will not finish their PhD programs; however, little research has been conducted on the various factors that can lead to attrition or enhance persistence in graduate engineering programs. This paper presents the results from the interview phase of a larger study investigating doctoral engineering socialization, attrition, persistence, and career trajectories. The participants for this study come from large research-intensive universities across the United States, and were sampled for maximum variation in a number of different categories, including stage in their doctoral program, gender, and race. Upon collecting and analyzing interview data from our participants through constant comparative and content analysis methods, several themes arose including concerns for mental health in engineering graduate students and uncertainties with joining the culture of academia in their future careers. Further, although the participants for this study are currently graduate students who anticipate completing their PhDs, nearly half of the participants discussed strongly considered leaving at some point. This study adds to the body of literature surrounding engineering attrition and the underlying issues driving engineering PhDs away from academic engineering careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781728117461
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Event49th IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019 - Covington, United States
Duration: Oct 16 2019Oct 19 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
Volume2019-October
ISSN (Print)1539-4565

Conference

Conference49th IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019
CountryUnited States
CityCovington
Period10/16/1910/19/19

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

Cite this

Hocker, E., Zerbe, E., & Berdanier, C. G. P. (2019). Characterizing Doctoral Engineering Student Socialization: Narratives of Mental Health, Decisions to Persist, and Consideration of Career Trajectories. In 2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019 [9028438] (Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE; Vol. 2019-October). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.. https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE43999.2019.9028438