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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.504 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2017016316
pages 53-71

SHAPING AUTONOMOUS DECISION MAKERS: FAMILIAL INFLUENCE ON PERSISTING FIRST GENERATION COLLEGE ENGINEERING STUDENTS

Denise R. Simmons
Myers-Lawson School of Construction and Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
Julie P. Martin
Department of Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA

ABSTRACT

Researchers recognize generational status in college as a noteworthy factor in understanding the barriers, supports, resources, and decision-making processes of engineering undergraduates. Using a constructivist grounded theory methodology and critical incident technique, this study explores the influences that first generation college (FGC) students ascribe to their families as they decide to select and remain in an engineering major. These influences are distinct despite parental lack of specific "college knowledge." Findings yielded a description of relationships among concepts (theory) uncovered (grounded) in the data. Families served as sounding boards by posing questions and reflecting the importance of those answers. They inspired their children's motivational dialogue and instilled an overt expectation to seek fulfillment in their chosen path in engineering. Families provided significant emotional support and assistance with college admission and financial decisions necessary for completing participants' pursuit of an engineering degree. The authors present practical implications for families, engineering educators, and other educators that have the potential to impact retention of FGC engineering undergraduates.


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