Denice D. Denton Best Paper Award

About the Award

Denice Dee Denton (27 August 1959 – 24 June 2006) was a professor of electrical engineering and an academic administrator. She held academic appointments at both the University of Massachusetts and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. In 1996, Denice became the first woman engineering dean at a major research institution with her appointment to lead the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. In 2003 at the age of 45, Denice D. Denton became the youngest person to be appointed chancellor in the University of California system at UC-Santa Cruz.  Women engineering faculty will forever remember Denice for what she achieved as she paved the way for acceptance of women as engineering academic leaders.

Our Best Paper authors receive a cash award.

2018 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

2017 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

2016 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Dr. Joanna Wolfe, Dr. Beth A Powell, Mr. Seth Schlisserman, and Ms. Alexandra Kirshon.

Teamwork in Engineering Undergraduate Classes: What problems do students experience?

Dr. Beth Powell has a doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Louisville. Her research is in engineering communication, and she works as a Coordinator for the College of Engineering Student Success Center at Tennessee Tech University.  Dr. Joanna Wolfe is a Teaching Professor of Rhetoric and Director of the Global Communication Center at Carnegie Mellon University.  Mr. Seth Schlisserman attends Carnegie Mellon University.  Ms. Alexandra Kirshon is a Decision Science major at Carnegie Mellon University with an additional major in Professional Writing and a minor in Public Policy and Management.

2015 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Dr. Jennifer J. VanAntwerp and Dr. Denise Wilson

Difference Between Engineering Men and Women: How and Why They Choose What They Do During Early Career.

Retention of the engineering workforce is of national importance for global competitiveness. Retention of women engineers is of particular interest because of the impact of their lower starting representation and higher attrition rate on workforce diversity. Exit rates from engineering careers are highest in the first 10 years after graduation. Thus, unlike most workforce retention research, this study focuses on participants who are still in the midst of this critical phase of their careers. We investigated what engineering graduates say about how and why they make early career pathway choices. The motivations for their choices were examined through the lens of gender differences (and similarities) while resting on the fundamental psychological framework provided by self-determination theory (SDT). SDT has demonstrated that the more behaviors are autonomously motivated, the more stable, the more fulfilling, and the more persistent those behaviors become. The current qualitative study is based on interviews with twenty-two early-career engineering graduates (eleven men and eleven women) from three geographically and culturally distinct institutions. While a majority of both men and women expressed autonomous motivations, the ways in which they were expressed imply different outcomes for career persistence. While the results presented herein do not have statistical significance because of small sample size and qualitative methodology, they do provide insight into the types of patterns that emerge from men and women in terms of how they view their careers from past, present, and future perspectives. Understanding these patterns will be helpful in identifying them among early career graduates in engineering and taking appropriate steps to support continued persistence in the field. Identification of these patterns is also helpful for designing a quantitative study that can point to the significance of gender differences in a larger population.

Dr. Jennifer J. Antwerp, is a Professor of Engineering at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. She earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with research in protein engineering. Her current research interests include retention, diversity, and career pathways among engineering students and professionals.  Dr. Denise Wilson is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests in engineering education focus on the role of self-efficacy, belonging, and other non-cognitive aspects of the student experience on engagement, success, and persistence.

2014 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Dr. Kerry Meyers, Dr. Leo H. McWilliams, & Catherine F. Pieronek

How Students’ Information Experiences Shape their Views of Engineering and Affect their Plans for Professional Persistence.

It is believed that increased student engagement leads to higher persistence.  In their paper, Meyers, McWilliams & Pieronek, originally focused on one measure of student engagement – student involvement in organizations within engineering, on campus, and in the community.  This later evolved into a study of the effect of a broader range of informal experiences on student perceptions of engineering and their plans for professional persistence. Their findings showed that Women and men, and white and nonwhite respondents, reported similar experiences in terms of when/if they considered leaving engineering and the sources of encouragement and discouragement for persisting in engineering. Students who indicated an intrinsic interest in engineering were less likely to indicate that they had ever considered leaving engineering. The experiences of male, female, white and non-white engineering students are collectively more similar than different. But the individual experiences and extracurricular involvements contribute to an engineering student’s development and are shaped by the culture of the academic institution.

Dr. Kerry L. Meyers, is the Director of the First-Year Engineering Program at Youngstown State University, Ohio.  She has a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue, a master degree in mechanical engineering from Oakland University in Michigan, and a Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue, Kerry earned her Ph.D.  She has several years of automotive industry design experience, but has since shifted her focus to engineering education, specifically working with first year engineering students.  Dr. Leo H. McWilliams is the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Director of the Minority Engineering Program at University of Notre Dame. Dr. McWilliams holds four degrees from Notre Dame: bachelor’s degrees in economics and electrical engineering; and master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering.  In his current position, Dr. McWilliams overseas activities aimed at recruitment, retention and engagement of students.  Leadership skills also are cultivated throughout the Minority Engineering Program via lectures, workshops, student competitions, scholarships, internships and career placement activities.  Catherine F. Pieronek is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of Women’s Engineering Program.  She has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Notre Dame, a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1987 and a law degree from Notre Dame.  In her current position she is is responsible for academic issues relevant to all undergraduate students throughout the college. She also has oversight for the college’s Minority Engineering Program and interfaces with offices across the University, including the Offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Affairs, Student Activities and the Registrar.

2013 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Dr. Lorelle A. Meadows and Dr. Denise Sekaquaptewa

The Influence of Gender Stereotypes on Role Adoption in Student Teams

Educational research provides ample evidence of the benefits of effective group work for engineering students including improved material retention, development of higher-order cognitive skills, and higher performance. This work also describes best practices in the creation of effective student teams including suggestions for team size, the placement of students in teams, and student diversity. While diversity in this context includes a broad range of considerations spanning abilities and perspectives, Tonso suggests that teams should include racial and ethnic diversity specifically, whenever possible. However, research has shown that despite best practices, women or minorities on teams can experience negative outcomes. Their perspectives are not always considered valid by majority teammates, and they are often assigned unimportant tasks, reflecting a societal stereotype of majority men as engineering “experts.” Moreover, under-representation of one’s social group (e.g., gender or race) in the academic environment can
lead to reduced performance as a result of stereotype threat, i.e. the concern that poor
performance may appear stereotype-confirming to others. The isolation that these students
feel on their teams may lead to diminished feelings of belonging in their field and lower retention
among these individuals.

Despite the employment of best practices, our earlier analysis of approximately 600
undergraduates involved in group oral presentations reveals that women on first-year engineering project teams exhibit less active participation than men, and that this happens regardless of the representation of women on the team. Men are disproportionately more likely to present the technical content in oral presentations than women, to speak longer than expected and longer than women, and to field more audience questions than women9, 10. In addition, students’ selfreported learning from the project is positively correlated with taking on active presentation roles, roles primarily adopted by men.

This paper provides a summary of the statistical findings of adding an additional 500 first year
student participants to the prior work, lending further validity to our initial findings. To complement these quantitative results, we also describe the results of a focus group study,
involving students who were enrolled in the targeted engineering course in a prior term. Themes emerging from the focus groups highlight the presence of gender stereotypic role adoption.
Although students in general felt that teams strive for fairness in determining roles, those roles
were recognizably aligned along stereotypical lines. Despite this recognition students thought
this phenomenon was mostly self-determined, and that they were not pressured into it.
Stereotyping was evidenced in reports of women most often taking on organizational roles,
taking notes, scheduling meetings, and distributing agendas. Of interest, women saw these nontechnical roles as less desirable because these are seen by others as insubstantial, but these were the very roles that women were most often taking on. Thus, we were able to document that
gender stereotypes influenced the roles adopted by men and women in their group project
presentations and that students, while recognizing the stereotypical patterns of behavior, do not
recognize the influence that conforming to these patterns has on their educational outcomes.

The authors are affiliated with the University of Michigan.

2012 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Jennifer Wang, Eli Patten, Ryan Shelby, Farzana Ansari, Lisa A. Pruitt

Leadership and Service Learning Improves Confidence of Engineering Skills in Women

As part of an undergraduate first-year engineering course, a five-week module on leadership was offered in addition to two other modules focused on more traditional engineering topics, bioengineering and mechanical engineering. Students were able to choose two out of the three modules as part of their requirement for the course. The leadership module presented mechanisms for developing professional skills and also provided hands-on application of these skills through K-12 service learning at a local science museum. Because women tend to be drawn to engineering sectors that give back to society, we hypothesized that the confidence levels of women would reflect the benefit of the leadership module.

To assess the impact of the module, we developed a survey based on the eleven ABET criteria and the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) ten criteria. We also asked open-ended questions for student feedback on the course. The survey was administered to all students at the beginning (pre-course) and end (post-course) of the semester. Results from our pre- and postcourse surveys reveal that women in our leadership module increased their confidence in all of the amalgamated NAE-ABET engineering skills while women who did not participate in our module showed no significant increased confidence in these skills. Furthermore, we found women’s confidence in the leadership module to have improved considerably compared to men in all modules. Finally, qualitative responses from women indicate overwhelming appreciation for the experience and skills gained from the leadership module, as well as an increase in confidence for women as engineers.

All authors are affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley

2011 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Lois Calian Trautvetter, Rose M. Marra, Lisa R. Lattuca, Katie L. Piacentini, and David B. Knight

Programs and Practices Making a Difference: A Cross-Case Analysis Identifying Programs and Factors that Influence Recruitment and Retention of Women Engineering Students

Despite nearly 20 years of recruitment and retention efforts focused on female students, women constituted only 19% of engineering students in 2007. A cross-case analysis of six engineering schools based on rich qualitative data from faculty, student, and administrator interviews, as well as observations and documents, provides a unique opportunity to identify trends and unique practices used to address the recruitment and retention of women engineering students. This paper focuses specifically on how these institutions implement K-12 outreach, admissions, summer/bridge, and first and second-year support programs. We find three themes that support recruitment of female students: 1) historical commitment, institutional type, and geographical location; 2) flexible and strategic admissions policies and “high touch” efforts; and 3) outreach programs for K-12. We also highlight five themes that lead to female students’ retaining an engineering degree: 1) Campus climate, 2) support services during early undergraduate years, 3) strong ties to faculty and student interaction in and out of the classroom, 4) high support for student organizations and activities, and 5) learning and living communities.

Trautvetter is affiliated with Northwestern University, Marra and Piacentini are affiliated with the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Lattuca and Knight are affiliated with Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

2010 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Rachelle Reisberg, Margaret Bailey, Carol Burger, Jerry Hamann, Joe Raelin, David Whitman

The Effect of Gender on Support and Self-Efficacy in Undergraduate Engineering Programs

Reisberg and Raelin are affiliated with Northeastern University, Bailey is affiliated with Rochester Institute of Technology, Burger is affiliated with Virginia Tech, and Hamman and Whitman are affiliated with the University of Wyoming.

2009 Denice D. Denton Best Paper

Peggy Meszaros and Catherine Amelink

A Cross-Institutional Comparison of Educational Factors Promoting or Discouraging the Intent to Remain in Engineering

The authors are affiliated with Virginia Tech.