Analyzing self-reported challenges and preferences for enhancing recruitment and retention of international Female Graduate Engineering Students

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Recruitment and retention of graduate students are well-recognized needs for higher education institutions. Particularly, increasing women students is one of the major priorities, as they are under-represented, especially in engineering fields. There is a need to identify the factors influencing female students in choosing a school and handling challenges during their graduate study. This paper addresses the preferences to choose a graduate school and challenges faced by current international women graduate engineering students at US universities. An online survey was conducted and analyzed to identify female students' concerns and influential factors before applying to or attending a graduate school. Results indicate that female students tend to choose a school on a different set of criteria compared to their male colleagues. Statistical analyses showed female students having concerns with language and culture change more than males. Furthermore, female students also reported location of university and funding opportunities as more important in choosing a school. Female graduate students reported in-school issues, such as courses, funding, and adjusting to culture, as the most challenging phase they experienced, significantly more than male students reported. There is a difference in perceptions among female and male students for choosing a school and handling challenges during graduate study. One of the key factors in increasing female students' recruitment and retention was found to be communication and mentorship. Another key factor was providing some sort of financial stability before they entered a graduate program. The main reasons female graduate students transferred to a different university were faculty issues and funding. We provide examples of how these findings can be incorporated by universities in recruitment and retention strategies to attract more international women graduate students in engineering programs. © 2013 by Begell House, Inc.

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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering