Sponsorship: Engineering's tacit gatekeeper

Kevin O'Connor*, Daniel Amos, Tori Bailey, Lari Garrison, Gary Lichtenstein, Heidi Loshbaugh, Marcus Jones, Derek Seward, Lisa Perhamus, Reed Stevens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Recent educational theory emphasizes the importance of considering identity processes in studying learning and development. In engineering education, identity has been cited as central in student development, for example, as a key factor in retention of students in the discipline, in particular with regard to underrepresented groups. This paper adopts a social theory of identity to examine how dynamics of "sponsorship" relates to students' decisions of whether to remain in or switch out of engineering. This paper draws on longitudinal case studies of two students to examine the relationship between students' interests and their decisions to persist in or leave their major. We argue that students' interests become differentially identified as "intrinsic" or "extrinsic" to engineering through the work of powerful sponsors within the discipline. We argue further that a view of identity as socially produced is necessary in order to avoid taking for granted crucial aspects of disciplinary practices of identifying engineers, and in particular ways in which certain kinds of interests might be sponsored over and above others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2007
Event114th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2007 - Honolulu, HI, United States
Duration: Jun 24 2007Jun 27 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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