Speaker: Dr. Jane Lehr | Liberal Arts, Engineering Studies, Ethnic Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies | California Polytechnic State University

Coauthor: Michael Haungs | Liberal Arts, Engineering Studies & Computer Science

This paper describes and analyzes the sex/gender ratio of student recruitment, retention, and graduation in an innovative “liberal studies in engineering” program at California Polytechnic State University as compared to accredited B.S. programs in engineering at the same university. The B.A. Program in Liberal Arts & Engineering Studies (LAES) Program is jointly offered by the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering. The program is designed to prepare students for a wide-range of innovative careers in emerging professional fields that combine skills and interests in the arts, technology, and culture, and for study in diverse graduate disciplines. Internal transfers are accepted into the program from all 6 colleges at the university, including from majors in engineering, the liberal arts, science, mathematics, business, agriculture, and architecture. Students complete rigorous technical education, including 44 units of support courses shared with the College of Engineering as well as the Cal Poly General Education curriculum; 34-35 units of additional coursework in an engineering specialization; 24 units of additional coursework in a liberal arts specialization; and at least 4 courses in Liberal Arts in Engineering Studies: two on project-based learning, a senior project course, and a capstone. Students may also earn internship or co-op credit in LAES. Explanations for sex/gender ratio differences are proposed, including exploration of how the ability of LAES students to design and follow their own unique pathway in this program may disrupt barriers such as impostor syndrome by positioning the student not as impostor but as designer and creator – even when enrolled in courses in engineering in which the sex/gender ratio is skewed male and where non-LAES students from underrepresented groups report greater psychological, social, and educational barriers. Lastly, the paper identifies “lessons learned” from this “liberal studies in engineering” program that accredited B.S. programs in engineering may wish to consider.

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