Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Kathryn M. Borman

Keywords

Gender, Higher Education, Race, STEM recruitment and retention, Websites

Abstract

Despite our awareness of the fascination modern humans have with the Internet, little is known about how and why colleges and universities create and maintain Websites. At the most general level, in this case study, I hypothesize that university Websites serve as communication and marketing tools in attracting students. At the most specific level, I postulate that civil engineering programs with Web pages depicting images of women and minorities would be more successful in recruiting and retaining women and students of color than civil engineering programs with Web pages displaying fewer or no images of women and minorities. The primary goal of this case study was to examine the relationships between Website information content and the recruitment and retention of women and minority pre-civil engineering students. The second, but equally important, goal was to investigate the reason(s) why, despite efforts to recruit and retain individuals from disenfranchised populations into STEM majors, students from these groups not only remain underrepresented in engineering, but leave this discipline at a much higher rate than their non-minority male counterparts. This case study focused on two Florida state university civil engineering programs and drew on ethnographic research methods. I used interviews, focus groups, Web pages, demographic sheets, and observations to examine the relationships between Website content and access to undergraduate civil engineering programs for women and students of color. The study sample involved 40 respondents, including pre-civil engineering students, civil engineering professors, and university administrators. Research findings suggested that Internet marketing has become a key strategy used by civil engineering programs in recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented groups. Additionally, the study revealed that both prospective and pre-civil engineering students use departmental Websites for communication and enrollment purposes. Last, but certainly not least, the study found that online climate is a significant factor in the recruitment and retention of women and students of color in civil engineering programs.

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