Building a Sense of Community for Underclassmen in Civil Engineering and Construction Management

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings


Across the country, less than two-thirds of engineering students persist and earn a degree in engineering. A considerable amount of research on the topic has been conducted, leading to a few key ideas on why students leave engineering. In particular, disinterest in the curriculum, a limited sense of belonging, perception of inadequate academic ability, and disconnect between learning style and instruction mode are some reasons that students depart engineering. Consequently, many first-year programs aim to address one or more of these issues. The ABC program at XXX seeks to improve undergraduate civil engineering and construction management education, as well as increase retention and graduation by specifically focusing on students and curriculum in the first two years of the civil & environmental engineering and construction management (CEEC/CM) programs. Retention and graduation rates are on the lower side of national averages; therefore, faculty at the institution are taking the lead and making changes within the department. One aspect of the program is community cohesion building (CCB), where first-year students create connections, engage in community and engineering design projects, and gain exposure to CEEC/CM professions. Specific objectives are to increase the sense of learning community among students and between students and faculty, as well as increase retention in the first two years. Through biweekly meetings, participants in CCB build connections with freshman CEEC/CM peers, upper level CEEC/CM undergraduate students, CEEC graduate students, and CEEC/CM faculty. Participants also engage in the engineering design process and compete in a national engineering design challenge geared toward freshman and sophomore students. This paper describes the first one-and-a-half years of CCB implementation of a five-year grant. We present the program structure, challenges, changes, and successes. This information should prove useful to other institutions who are in the process of implementing new first-year programs, especially for institutions who have similar characteristics (i.e., urban setting, commuter school, highly diverse, high proportion of first generation students). Program evaluation focuses on the following items related to CCB objectives: 1) increase in sense of belonging as measured by an increase in social networks (tool: student survey), and 2) increase in CEEC/CM retention between freshman/sophomore and sophomore/junior years (tool: institutional data).

Controlled Subject

Civil engineering; Students


Civil Engineering

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