CAREER: Characterizing Master's-Level Departure from the Engineering Doctorate through Multiple Stakeholders' Perspectives

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project addresses the critical issue of doctoral student attrition in engineering disciplines. While the ten-year completion rates for engineering PhDs are only 65% for men and 56% for women, these numbers are significantly lower for students from underrepresented groups. These statistics represent a significant loss of talent for the field. This CAREER research characterizes and models Master's-level departure from engineering PhD programs by analyzing the perspectives of departers, graduate students who are considering departure, and faculty who advise these students. This research supports national calls to action such as the 2018 National Academies report on Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, which posits that understanding retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate programs is critical to maintaining economic and national competitiveness.

This CAREER research will develop a comprehensive understanding of Master's-level departure with a systems-level perspective. In order to develop this model, the research will 1) characterize common narratives of Master's-level departure and model students' departure decisions over time, and 2) characterize faculty perspective of departure. Modeling student departure will be accomplished through interviews, a longitudinal survey, and a longitudinal text message survey that utilize role identity theory, expectancy value theory, ideal worker theory, and leader-member exchange theory. The faculty-centric research phase will investigate potentially conflicting narratives about attrition and departure between departed/questioning graduate students and faculty. Understanding these potentially dissonant perspectives between faculty and students are critical to developing interventions for either stakeholder group.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date12/15/1811/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $671,365.00


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