School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Sarah Horne


engineering, women, transition, community college, persistence


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of women engineering majors who transitioned to community colleges and persisted to the second year. Guiding this study was Schlossberg’s transition theory as it explains the transition to first-year engineering student and Tinto’s theory of student departure. The study used purposeful, criterion sampling to identify the participants who met the following criteria: full- or part-time female engineering student who completed the first year of study, as defined by the completion of 30 credits, and persisted into the second year of study at a community college. Data were collected through protocol writing, semi-structured interviews of 10 participants using open-ended questions, and a focus group. The study applied van Manen’s reflective-interpretive approach to hermeneutic phenomenology. Data analysis required the use of epoche and reduction, thematic analysis, conceptual analysis, reading the text, and insight cultivators. Through data analysis, the broad themes of social experiences and academic experiences emerged as students moved into, through, and out of the community college engineering program. Participants described social experiences illustrating the underrepresentation of women, sexism, and microaggressions in engineering; diversity in the community college population; and relationships with and support from family, faculty, staff, and friends. They also described academic experiences that highlighted differences between high school and college; group projects and hands-on learning; the classroom environment; difficult course content and learning from failure; and completion, transfer, and academic and personal development. “Take-aways” are the prevalence of underrepresentation, sexism, and microaggression and the importance of persisting through and learning from failure.