This paper describes the efforts at a large mid-Atlantic university to integrate themes from Changing the Conversation into First Year Seminars. Changing the Conversation, a 2008 book by the National Academy of Engineering, found that both male and female students were more attracted to messages describing engineering in terms relating to societal impact, such as the phrases, "Engineering makes a world of difference" and "Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety." Although the research was conducted with younger students, the potential for using these themes in the undergraduate curricula could have the potential to impact persistence in engineering, especially for female students or those from other underrepresented groups. The purpose of the initiative described in the paper, which uses engineering students from a group called the Engineering Ambassadors to relay these messages in freshmen level courses, is to impact student perceptions of engineering and to provide information to students that will be critical in making career decisions.

In the Fall of 2011, a pilot program was launched in two sections of a Chemical Engineering First Year Seminar. Engineering Ambassadors made four separate visits to each section, focusing on the following topics: 1) An overview of College of Engineering Majors, 2) Options within Chemical Engineering, 3) Student experiences in the College of Engineering, and 4) How to be a successful engineering student. Woven through each presentation were themes from Changing the Conversation, focusing on how engineers are essential to health, happiness and safety. The students were mentored by a faculty member whose background is in Communication. The quality of student presentations was high, utilizing the assertion-evidence method of slide design.

Data was collected to determine whether the following project objectives were met: 1) Students in the First Year Seminars will have a greater understanding of the possible careers in engineering as well as the engineering majors; and 2) Students will be more likely to define engineering in terms associated with health, happiness, and safety. The data showed that the students had a very positive reaction to the Engineering Ambassador visits, although a larger sample size would be necessary to more clearly understand the impact.

Meeting Name

2012 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference & Exposition (2012, Jun. 10-13, San Antonio, TX)


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Education; Engineering education; Health; Professional aspects; Safety engineering; Teaching; National Academy of Engineering; Persistence in engineerings; Project objectives; Societal impacts; Student experiences; Student perceptions; Under-represented groups; Undergraduate curricula; Students

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2012 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2012