Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Adult students, Engineering students


Engineering Education | Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering | Psychology


Adult learners belong to a large group of individuals for whom lifelong learning is both a desire and a necessity and for whom career changes are or will be the norm. This topic is not exclusive to engineering, but impacts many STEM professionals. Adult learners also include those who may have significant family responsibilities, medical issues, work obligations, returning veterans/active service military people, or those who lack financial resources to commit to fulltime studies. While online education opportunities may fill some of the gaps, acquiring an identity as a professional in a field or discipline grows with personal connections. The work to date builds on prior research to understand multiple identities and professional identity development and design approach among undergraduate engineering students aged 25 and over. During this three-year NSF funded study, qualitative and quantitative data were collected from three diverse sites including a large public university (UC Berkeley), a small private university (University of New Haven), and a community college (Cañada Community College). Semi-structured interviews, think-aloud protocols, and a large-scale survey have all contributed to a rich set of data. Results point to the construction of an identity as “other” among adult engineering students in institutions of various types. The data supports the need for engineering education systems to provide systems that support a broad range of students, as well as opportunities for students to work together across generational difference.


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Publisher Citation

Carnasciali, M., & Ciston, S., & Mikel, T. K., & Morales, A. M., & Sehgal, S., & Whitson, M. L. (2017, June), Board # 17 : A Three-Year Study of Adult Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.