Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Ning Fang


Ning Fang


Cassandra McCall


Marissa Tsugawa


First-generation college (FGC) students are defined as students whose parents do not have a bachelor's or graduate degree. FGC students tend to face more overall challenges in the college environment than their continuing-generation counterparts. Often, FGC students have lower grade-point-averages (GPAs) and are less likely to graduate than their peers. In majors like engineering, the struggles that first-generation college students face can be further magnified. This quantitative study examines the activities FGC students in engineering engage in based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Questions from the NSSE cover different educational activities and are categorized into ten educational engagement indicators (EIs) that contribute to four educational themes. The overall goal of this study is to identify activities that FGC students engage in that contribute to academic success by answering the following research questions:

1) What is the engagement experience for first-generation college students in engineering at Utah State University?

2) Do different categories of engagement correlate to one another for first-generation college students in engineering? If so, how?

3) Does engagement experience relate to GPA for first-generation college students in engineering at Utah State University? If so, how?

A sample of 28 sophomore, junior, and senior engineering students of various disciplines at Utah State University was obtained for this research via a pre-screening survey. Participants completed the NSSE and received compensation for their time. Survey data was organized, responses to questions were grouped into EIs, and then EIs were grouped into themes. A total score was calculated for each participant based on the ten engagement indicators and the four themes. The distribution of the total score data was determined apply appropriate correlational tests.

The results demonstrated significant correlations between three of the four themes and within the engagement indicators. Of the themes and engagement indicators, the Supportive Environment engagement indicator showed a significant positive correlation with student GPA. These results can be used to inform FGC students in engineering and educators of engagement activities that relate to one another and relate to academic success.