Student perceptions of engineering stress culture

Karin Jensen, Kelly J. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Stress is a particularly salient feature for engineering students who report high levels of stress (1, 2). However, the association of stress as part of engineering culture and the implications for engineering programs has not been fully explored in the literature. Studies on engineering culture describe a particularly bleak outlook, with the rigor and selectivity of engineering programs perpetuating a “meritocracy of difficulty” (3) where student success can be interpreted as “being able to take it” (4). Within engineering, disciplinary subcultures have also been described (5). This work is part of a larger study to understand how students experience stress as part of engineering culture. The overarching goal of the project is to understand how a culture of stress develops in engineering and how it impacts student perceptions of inclusion in engineering disciplines and their level of identification in engineering. Our previous work has indicated that correlative relationships exist between engineering student identity, perceptions of inclusion, and self-reported stress, anxiety, and depression (2). The current work is project status update to present results of a thematic analysis of the student comments about culture in engineering in response to open-ended questions collected as part of a larger survey (2). At the end of the survey students had the opportunity to respond to the prompt “Is there anything else you would like to share that was not included on the survey?” The original survey collected responses from 1,193 students and 174 of these respondents provided additional comments that are the focus of this analysis (~10% response rate). Through this analysis, we identify themes in how students openly describe engineering culture and the perceptions of inclusion and mental health in engineering. Common themes that emerged in the thematic analysis were the association of mental health problems with studying engineering and negative culture in engineering. Students also expressed the need for greater attention to mental health of undergraduates in engineering programs. Analysis of student comments and discussion of the implications for engineering programs are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Student perceptions of engineering stress culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this