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Title: In Their Own Words: How Aspects of Engineering Education Undermine Students’ Mental Health
Several recent studies have documented high rates of mental health struggles among engineering students [1]–[4]. To date, however, studies of mental health in engineering have been limited to primarily quantitative surveys. This paper advances the research landscape by presenting findings from an interview study with current and former engineering students. The interview data can help explain quantitative findings from previous studies and provide deeper insights into relationships between engineering culture and mental health. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with fourteen undergraduate students from five universities in four different states in the United States. Through the interviews, we identified seven specific features of engineering and engineering education that undermined students’ mental health. Furthermore, our analysis identifies not only what aspects of engineering education undermine mental health but also explains how they do so. While the interviews were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in fall of 2020, the experiences reported by students were primarily pre-pandemic experiences, and are not specific to pandemic conditions. In addition to elucidating the seven aspects presented in the Findings, one aim in identifying and discussing these features is to challenge tacit or taken-for-granted notions that these aspects of engineering education are given, necessary, unchangeable, or desirable. Shedding light on the ways in which the features identified in this paper impact students can help engineering educators, administrators, and other students critically reflect on how their role in perpetuating these characteristics affects students and the engineering education system as a whole.  more » « less
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American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference
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National Science Foundation
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