Women and underrepresented minorities can help fill the ever-growing demand for engineers in the United States. Quality teaching methods, an understanding of the cognitive aspects of learning, and faculty addressing biases help ensure student success in engineering majors. Accordingly, the community college engineering pathway can help fill the national need for engineers. This phenomenological study sought to describe the experience of students who choose the community college pathway toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. Thirteen participants were interviewed; all took engineering courses at the same community college, transferred to a four-year engineering university (10 to a R1), and were progressing toward or have earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The community college pathway offers a lower-cost, quality education, allowing students of all math levels access to an engineering degree with courses that transfer to a four-year institution. These students gained skills necessary to be successful and were able to earn an engineering degree with little debt. Relationships with peers and authority figures were also crucial to the students’ journey. Through collaboration, students learn better and gain a deeper understanding of the material. Engineering Club and participation in the Project Showcase were pivotal experiences. Students often needed multiple sources of encouragement, recognition, and successes to persist toward an engineering degree. Seeing themselves in a role model is beneficial. Engineering lifestyle, comfort, and money were factors in choosing an engineering major. Each participant experienced community, relationships, friendships, and were grateful they chose the community college pathway.


Jinger Gustafson

Committee Member

Jason Kaufman

Committee Member

Stephen Strom

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)

Program of Study

Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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