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Dr. Cindy Veenstra's Publications 

On Improving STEM and Engineering Student Success and Degree Completion

"Student retention does not just happen—Engineering STEM student success requires a systemic approach towards a 21st century student-focused learning community that includes the practice of continuous improvement thinking  and collaboration with stakeholders ."

 "Stately Manner", ASQ Quality Progress, April 2017

"Stately Manner" discusses state and regional Baldrige-based networking programs that use the Baldrige criteria to help organizations innovate and continuously improve their performance excellence.  The article explains the benefits of the state and regional Baldrige programs for helping organizations in their quality improvement journeys and how to get started. More organizations, including school districts and colleges could use their state or regional programs.  The Pewaukee school district, first a recipient of Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence's Forward Award of Excellence and then a recipient of the presidential award, Baldrige National Quality Award is highlighted in the article. 


More than ever, STEM education needs to include both the college learning experience and internships/co-ops sponsored by industry.  Learning from college classrooms provides the academic foundations for STEM education and technical knowledge in mathematics, the sciences, technology and engineering.  Internship and co-op experiences prepare students for their careers after college, provides motivation for upper-level classes, contributes to professional thinking, and improved student learning.    

Internship collaboration between universities and employers ensures successful internships, aids employers' recruitment of new employees, and increases STEM graduation rates. The following editorials give examples of industry's participation.  More is needed. 


  Quality Progress Perspectives (Oct 2013) "Action Required: Grow STEM Opportunities through Active Industry Involvement"

A Call to Action for Industry to get more involved with STEM Education; and to support the STEM pipeline through K-12 outreach projects, co-ops/internships and industry-sponsored capstones.

 The Collaborative Role of Industry in Supporting STEM Education (October 2014, Journal for Quality  and Participation). This article discusses Industry's role in providing successful internships, mentoring students and retention in STEM majors.  

STEM Demands Innovation (February 2015 Special STEM issue of the ASQ Education Brief). A discussion of current innovations in the STEM pipeline including support by industry. 

In addition, here are some slides based on my presentation at the 2015 ASEE Conference on Industry-Education Collaboration.  

Excellent examples of collaboration between industry and higher education are included in the May 2013 special edition  of  the Quality Approaches in Higher Education on collaboration, which I edited. This edition celebrated collaboration and continuous improvement in support of the 2013 Advancing the STEM Agenda Conference.   


Requirement for STEM Student Success: A Model Guiding Strategies for Student Success

The following research defines a model for first year STEM student success and retention in college using high school experiences prior to college.  In addition, the research shows that successful policy implications are different for engineering majors than for non-engineering STEM majors.

Transition to College: Educational Model on Freshman Engineering Retention Based onPre-College Characteristics

A Model for Freshman Engineering Retention by Cindy P. Veenstra, Eric L. Dey and Gary D. Herrin, Advances in Engineering Education, Winter 2009, ASEE

This paper describes a literature-based educational model for both freshman engineering and freshman college retention, and was part of my PhD research. It includes a bibliography of research literature on freshman engineering retention and college graduation. This research established that different factors are significant for freshman engineering retention, compared to general engineering retention.  Click here  for a brief description of our first year retention model. It can be used for both engineering and general college retention assessments. 

Model's Empirical Validation at the University  of Michigan

Is Modeling of Freshman Engineering Success Different from Modeling of Non-Engineering Success? by Cindy P. Veenstra, Eric L. Dey and Gary D. Herrin, Journal of Engineering Education, October 2008, ASEE

This research provides validation of the success of using our model for two freshman classes at the University of Michigan. It also shows that the predictors for academic success for engineering students are different than predictors for STM and social science students.  Let us know what your experience has been. 

Applying the Model —A Proactive Strategy that College Deans and Advisors Can Use

A Strategy for Improving Freshman College Retention by Cindy P. Veenstra, Journal for Quality and Participation, January 2009.

Using the Veenstra student retention model, this paper suggests a strategy for improving student success by considering the strengths and weaknesses of each freshman. It also addresses that a college needs to embrace a student-focused culture to ensure that students decide to return to this college for their second year of college.  A justification for the cost of a student support system is included in this article.

Understanding Diversity in Engineering Through a Socio-Economic Lens and Academic Preparedness

The following research papers explore diversity in engineering by looking at peer socioeconomic status across gender and race/ethnicity for access to and graduation from Engineering.  The research is part of Purdue University's MIDFIELD project research. Recommendations for both K-12 schools and engineering colleges to improve access to engineering colleges and engineering degree completion are made.  

"Gaining Access or Losing Ground?: Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students in Undergraduate Engineering, 1994–2003", by Valerie Lundy-Wagner, Cindy P. Veenstra, Marisa K. Orr, Nichole M. Ramirez, Matthew W. Ohland & Russell A. Long, Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 85 (3), June 2014. 

"Viewing Access and Persistence in Engineering through a Socioeconomic Lens" by Matthew W. Ohland, Marisa K. Orr, Valerie Lundy-Wagner, Cindy P. Veenstra and Russell A. Long. In Engineering and Social Justice: In The University and Beyond, edited by Caroline Baillie, Alice L. Pawley and Donna Riley, 2012.


Improved Course Design Supports Student Decision-Making and Persistence  (Practicing Plan-Do-Study-Act) 

Does a Survey Course on Engineering Careers Improve First-Year Engineering Retention? by Cindy P. Veenstra and Gary D. Herrin, 2009 ASEE Conference Proceedings, ASEE.

This paper shows that enrollment in a survey course in engineering careers improves first-year engineering retention and discusses the importance of identity as an engineer and the teaching the “social good” of engineering in the course. Significantly, an empirical relation was found between enrollment in the survey course and improved retention.

Scholarship of Teaching and Student RetentionASQ Higher Education Brief, August 2009.

A discussion of the impact of the research on scholarship of teaching and how scholarly teaching can improve student retention.

Strategies for Improving Student Retention Using Survey Assessments Have Scaling-Up Potential Through PDSA Thinking

Community Colleges: Student Engagement and Workforce Development, ASQ Higher Education Brief, January 2010. A discussion on the importance of assessment for understanding the low graduation rates at community colleges, and the importance of the instructor engaging students in the classroom for increasing graduation rates at community colleges.

Using the CIRP Survey to Develop a Strategy for Freshman Engineering Retention, ASEE North Central Section Conference Proceedings, 2010. A discussion on the importance of the use of surveys such as the CIRP Freshman Survey for developing a strategy for annual continual improvement.

Using CIRP Surveys to Assess and Improve the First-Year STEM Experience, Highlights of a presentation at the 2010 IUPUI Assessment Conference Presentation, by Cindy Veenstra and Fernando Padro, October 26, 2010. A discussion of Veenstra's 5-Step Assessment Process and Student Success Framework and a continuation of the discussion on research on STEM student success and future directions for education policies.

The Diversity of STEM Majors and a Strategy for Improved STEM Retention, 2010. Included are definitions of STEM for college majors, a summary of interest by matriculating freshmen in STEM majors and a strategy for improved student retention in the STEM disciplines.  This paper shows that women students show exceptionally strong interest in biology-related STEM fields and much less in the physical sciences and engineering. This paper includes statistics on the technology fields.

More on Systems Thinking , Baldrige and Six Sigma for Student Success 

Final Thoughts: Quality in Education: What's Next? The Journal for Quality and Participation, April, 2009.  Closing editorial of a special issue on Quality in Education.  This special issue led to the development of the new ASQ journal, Quality Approaches in Higher Education .  The editorial looks to the future discussing the challenges of education, and the need for more date-driven and student-focused approaches.  More systems thinking is recommended.  Most of the articles in this classic, special issue on Quality in Education are open access (may require a sign-in) 

Using Critical Thinking to Improve Engineering Retention , Third Annual Research and Scholarship in Engineering Education Poster Session, University of Michigan, 2008. A poster presentation that uses Lean Six-Sigma approach. It presents a hypothetical example of using a strategic X-matrix for Lean Six Sigma thinking in engineering colleges.

Systems Thinking Using Baldrige in Engineering Colleges, Panel Discussion Session at 2010 ASEE National Conference. Dr. Veenstra’s presentation slides. An introduction to the session and to the Baldrige Education Criteria compared to ABET accreditation.


To summarize these articles, preparation and taking math and science courses in high school can make the difference in success as a STEM major in the first year of college. Confidence in math abilities or overall academic abilities also counts. Academic performance defined by the high school GPA and ACT scores are predictive of success. A career course on engineering in the first year definitely helps students understand their future career in engineering and leads to a higher retention in engineering. The benefits in increased student support programs are measured by increased student retention.

Systems and change management thinking such as the Baldrige framework and Lean Six Sigma will be needed to help universities improve their academic programs, internship programs and student retention. To achieve the national goal of over 50% of the population attaining an Associate degree or higher, more successful strategies for helping 21st century students (both traditional and adult learners) learn and achieve their life-time educational goals will be needed. This will require more collaboration between community colleges, universities, school systems and industry.