First in the family: A comparison of first-generation and non-first-generation engineering college students

Dina Verdin, Allison Godwin

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

35 Scopus citations


This study investigates first-generation and non-first-generation engineering undergraduates' math/science identities, subject-related interests, and career plans. First-generation students are an understudied, but growing population. Understanding how these self-beliefs and background factors affect students' engineering choice can help widen pathways into engineering which continues to be defined as 'pale and male.' Additionally, identity has predictive value for practical outcomes like engineering choice in college. The data for this study comes from the nationally representative Sustainability and Gender in Engineering (SaGE) survey completed by 6,772 college students who enrolled in first-year English courses at 2- and 4-year colleges across the U.S. Data were analyzed using t-test and chi-square tests for linear and dichotomous outcomes respectively. Our results show differences in first-generation students' identities, interests, performance/ competence beliefs, and family support for science. These differences can serve as a stepping stone towards understanding the trajectories of first-generation college students in engineering. By understanding underrepresented students' identities, performance, and backgrounds, specific strategies can be developed to support these students in our engineering programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference
Subtitle of host publicationLaunching a New Vision in Engineering Education, FIE 2015 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781479984534
StatePublished - Dec 2 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2015 - El Paso, United States
Duration: Oct 21 2015Oct 24 2015

Publication series

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


Other2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityEl Paso


  • career plans
  • family support
  • first-generation college student
  • identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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