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  1. Abstract Background

    Mental health for engineering undergraduates is an urgent topic for engineering educators. Narratives of engineering education requiring suffering may create or exacerbate problematic perceptions around stress and mental health in engineering. This study explored the roles of stress and mental health in engineering culture. We sought to explore: (1) how engineering students describe their experiences related to stress and mental health and (2) norms and expectations engineering students share about stress and mental health. Qualitative interview data were collected from 30 students who had previously responded to a college-wide survey.


    Codes related to experiences with stress and mental health in engineering were organized in a bioecological systems model and analyzed for emergent themes depicting engineering culture. The study identified three themes related to stress and mental health in engineering culture: (1) engineering workload as a defining stressor, (2) specific barriers that prevent engineering students from seeking help for mental health concerns, and (3) reliance on peers to cope with stress and mental health distress.


    Our analysis provided insight into how engineering students perceive norms around stress and mental health in engineering and how this impacts help-seeking for mental health challenges. These findings have important implications for developing interventions and positive cultures that support student mental health.

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  2. Recent international calls have been made to build capacity in engineering by increasing the number of scholars using research-based instructional practices in engineering classrooms. Training traditional engineering professors to conduct engineering education research (EER) supports this goal. Previous work suggests that engineering professors interested in perform­ing social sciences or educational research require structured support when making this transition. We interviewed 18 professors engaged with a grant opportunity in the United States that supports professors conducting EER for the first time through structured mentor­ship. Thematic analysis of interview data resulted in four findings describing common percep­tions and experiences of traditional engineering professors as they begin to conduct formalised EER: motivation to conduct EER, institutional support and barriers, growth in knowl­edge, and integrating with EER culture. Within these findings, barriers to entering EER were uncovered with implications for professors interested in EER, funding agencies, and prospec­tive mentors, resulting in suggestions for improving access to EER for professors developing as teaching scholars. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 2, 2024
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  5. Abstract Background

    Stress is commonly experienced by college students, especially engineering students. However, the role of stress within engineering culture and its implications for engineering programs have not been fully explored in the literature.


    The purpose of this study was to measure and examine the relationships among self‐reported stress, anxiety, and depression; engineering identity; and perceptions of inclusion of undergraduate engineering students.


    We validated a quantitative survey instrument built on previously published scales and used it to measure self‐reported stress, anxiety, and depression; engineering identity; and perceptions of inclusion.


    Our findings indicate that self‐reported levels of stress, anxiety, and depression are high for engineering students. Further, levels of stress and anxiety are significantly higher for female students, while levels of depression are higher for first‐generation students. We find correlations between self‐reported mental health symptoms, engineering identity, and perceptions of inclusion, and these relationships differ by gender. Lastly, we find that students underrepresented in engineering rate their departments as less diverse than their peers.


    Our results suggest that perceptions of inclusion and engineering identity are related to student mental health, further emphasizing the importance of developing inclusive cultures in engineering programs. The findings suggest that mental health needs greater attention in engineering education, particularly for female and first‐generation students.

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  6. High levels of stress and anxiety are common amongst college students, particularly engineering students. Students report lack of sleep, grades, competition, change in lifestyle, and other significant stressors throughout their undergraduate education (1, 2). Stress and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact student experience (3-6), academic performance (6-8), and retention (9). Previous studies have focused on identifying factors that cause individual students stress while completing undergraduate engineering degree programs (1). However, it not well-understood how a culture of stress is perceived and is propagated in engineering programs or how this culture impacts student levels of identification with engineering. Further, the impact of student stress has not been directly considered in engineering regarding recruitment, retention, and success. Therefore, our guiding research question is: Does the engineering culture create stress for students that hinder their engineering identity development? To answer our research question, we designed a sequential mixed methods study with equal priority of quantitative survey data and qualitative individual interviews. Our study participants are undergraduate engineering students across all levels and majors at a large, public university. Our sample goal is 2000 engineering student respondents. We combined three published surveys to build our quantitative data collection instrument, including the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), Identification with engineering subscale, and Engineering Department Inclusion Level subscale. The objective of the quantitative instrument is to illuminate individual perceptions of the existence of an engineering stress culture (ESC) and create an efficient tool to measure the impact ESC on engineering identity development. Specifically, we seek to understand the relationships among the following constructs; 1) identification with engineering, 2) stress and anxiety, and 3) feelings of inclusion within their department. The focus of this paper presents the results of the pilot of the proposed instrument with 20 participants and a detailed data collection and analysis process. In an effort to validate our instrument, we conducted a pilot study to refine our data collection process and the results will guide the data collection for the larger study. In addition to identifying relationships among construct, the survey data will be further analyzed to specify which demographics are mediating or moderating factors of these relationships. For example, does a student’s 1st generation status influence their perception of stress or engineering identity development? Our analysis may identify discipline-specific stressors and characterize culture components that promote student anxiety and stress. Our objective is to validate our survey instrument and use it to inform the protocol for the follow-up interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the responses to the survey instrument. Understanding what students view as stressful and how students identify stress as an element of program culture will support the development of interventions to mitigate student stress. References 1. Schneider L (2007) Perceived stress among engineering students. A Paper Presented at St. Lawrence Section Conference. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from: www. asee. morrisville. edu. 2. Ross SE, Niebling BC, & Heckert TM (1999) Sources of stress among college students. Social psychology 61(5):841-846. 3. Goldman CS & Wong EH (1997) Stress and the college student. Education 117(4):604-611. 4. Hudd SS, et al. (2000) Stress at college: Effects on health habits, health status and self-esteem. College Student Journal 34(2):217-228. 5. Macgeorge EL, Samter W, & Gillihan SJ (2005) Academic Stress, Supportive Communication, and Health A version of this paper was presented at the 2005 International Communication Association convention in New York City. Communication Education 54(4):365-372. 6. Burt KB & Paysnick AA (2014) Identity, stress, and behavioral and emotional problems in undergraduates: Evidence for interaction effects. Journal of college student development 55(4):368-384. 7. Felsten G & Wilcox K (1992) Influences of stress and situation-specific mastery beliefs and satisfaction with social support on well-being and academic performance. Psychological Reports 70(1):291-303. 8. Pritchard ME & Wilson GS (2003) Using emotional and social factors to predict student success. Journal of college student development 44(1):18-28. 9. Zhang Z & RiCharde RS (1998) Prediction and Analysis of Freshman Retention. AIR 1998 Annual Forum Paper. 
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  7. Giving a voice to marginalized groups and understanding the double bind is critical, especially after the Charlotte, VA protests and the white supremacist discourse that has pervaded our country. The result of the discourse, more subtle beliefs about white superiority and institutional barriers is an overrepresentation of women of color (WOC) in the leaky STEM pipeline and thus the loss of their presence and expertise. The absence of WOC hinders knowledge production and innovation that is essential for societal advancements and scientific discovery. The “chilly climate” is often cited as an explanation for the loss of WOC from STEM. However, interactions that allow the “chilly climate” to persist have yet to be characterized. This lack of understanding can inhibit the professional engineering identity construction of WOC. Additionally, engineering education research typically focuses on a single identity dimension such as gender or socio-economic status. These studies connect an identity dimension to student outcomes and few studies clarify how the identity is situated within the social context of the engineering culture. Consequently, a need exist to examine how the engineering culture impacts multiple components of identity and intersecting identities of WOC. To address this gap, our study illuminates the intersections of identity of WOC and how they perceive the double bind of race and gender within the context of their engineering education. The data reported here are a part of a larger, sequential mixed-methods study (N=276) of undergraduate female engineering students at a large Midwestern research university. This project applies the framework of intersectionality with the following scales: Engineering Identity, Ethnic Identity, Womanist Identity, Microaggressions, and Depression. We use intersectionality to investigate the interaction between intersecting social identities and educational conditions. We introduce the Womanist Identity Attitude scale to engineering education research, which provides an efficient way to understand gender, racial, and intersecting identity development of WOC. We utilize the microaggressions scale, in order to develop quantitative measures of gender-racial discrimination in STEM and compare to previous research. We also included the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), an instrument for measuring depression, to assess health outcomes of respondents’ experiences of gender-racial microaggressions. Our three emergent findings suggest instrument accuracy and provide insight into the identity and depression subscales. Factor analysis established a basis to refine our quantitative survey instruments, and indicated that 23 items could offer greater accuracy than the original 54 items instrument. Second, the majority of participants report a high level of identification with engineering. This result rebuffs the long-held stereotypes that females are less interested in engineering. Third, a significant portion of female respondents self-reported PHQ-9 scores in the 15-19 range, which corresponds with a “major depression, moderately severe” provisional diagnosis, the second-highest in severity in the PHQ-9 provisional diagnosis scale. These elevated levels of depression correlated significantly to frequent instances of microaggressions. These preliminary findings are providing never-before seen insight into the experiences of WOC in engineering. Our results suggest a path to accurately describe the experiences of WOC in engineering, while revealing options for improving inclusion efforts. 
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  8. African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, and other traditionally underserved ethnic/racial groups are needed for the next generation of engineers, scientists, and STEM educators. Women of color (WOC), in particular, represent a tremendous untapped human capital that could further provide a much-needed diversity of perspective essential to sustain technological advantages and to promote positive academic climate. Recently engineering educators have questioned the STEM community commitment towards increasing the participation of WOC. Indeed, national reports of domestic students studying and completing STEM degrees show marginal improvement in broadening participation with significant lag in engineering, despite the known benefits of diversity. Therefore, more must be done by the STEM community to attract and retain WOC. For students of color, campus climate issues around race, class, and gender are critical components shaping their higher education learning environment. Research suggests hostile campus climates are associated with students of color leaving STEM fields before graduating. Such barriers can be more pronounced for WOC who often experience a “double bind” of race and gender marginalization when navigating the STEM culture. Therefore, it is important that educators understand experiences of WOC and what is needed to improve students’ experiences in order to minimize the performance gap in key indicators (e.g., retention, achievement, and persistence). We seek to address this STEM need through the guiding research question: “How does the double bind of race and gender impact the experience of women of color in engineering?” The data reported here is part of a larger, sequential mixed-methods study that is informed by the Womanist and intersectionality theoretical frameworks. For the first time, we introduce the Womanist Identity Attitude scale to engineering education research, which provides an efficient way to understand gender and racial identity development of WOC along with the intersection of identities. Intersectionality provides a means to produce scholarship that investigates the connection between social identity dimensions and educational conditions. Social identity models that adhere to intersectionality concepts acknowledge that multiple oppressed identities have a cumulative, not additive, impact. Although intersectionality is used to understand the experiences of students of color in higher education, few engineering education studies apply an intersectionality framework, particularly for WOC. After a short pilot study, we anticipate the survey results will generate three outcomes. First, the survey results will show what intersecting identities most impact the experience of WOC in engineering. Second, interview question and potential themes will be created by grouping results into clusters of intersectionality types or exemplars of intersecting identities. Finally, we will generate strategies to overcome the challenge of the double bind for WOC in engineering by examining the context and scope of intersecting identities emphasized by participants in the survey to. Overall, the results presented here will provide the foundation for a larger study that will lead to a deeper understanding of the challenges WOC face in the engineering culture and expose areas to improve inclusion efforts that target WOC. 
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