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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 1626  
Subject: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg majors Date: 11/4/2011 3:14 PM
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-scien...

Duh!! What can be done about it. Only the brightest and best can expect to graduate from most engineering schools. And most do have to study. Other majors are less work, easier, and allow more time for partying.

If computers do most of the work, do students still need to learn all those formulas and work all those problems at the end of the chapter?

Can the rigor be watered down and still produce quality graduates?
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Author: cautiousone100 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1547 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/4/2011 6:02 PM
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For my son, the switch out of civil engineering and into construction engineering management was driven by thoughts that the actual CE work would be as dull and mundane as the classes he was taking. It did not help having a few CE profs tell him it was all behind-the-desk stuff and that teaching was a lot better than practicing. I guess I would say it was buzz-kill that did him in. And, the key thing is that he didn't hear any real life experiences from recent grads/peers in CE, but he did hear from two CEM friends doing internships and loving them.

This convinces me that internships are key and so is having recent grads as mentors. I didn't see that mentioned in the article. Engineering is a really tough program and I'm sure alumni could play a key role in convincing students that are already cutting it or even struggling in it that it's worth it.

cautiousone

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Author: mmrmnhrm Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1548 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/4/2011 6:54 PM
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Agreed with C1... I'm glad I stuck out my EE degree even though the math (differential equations being the most ghastly) drove me to tears, but I'm really starting to think that, while my school did offer a co-op program, they didn't do nearly enough to promote it. Being out 10 years now, I'm really thinking that it ought to be part of the degree requirements for any accredited program, not just a "Hey, this is a great way to get your feet wet" sort of thing. My first few years out of school were a real crash-course in how Things Really Work(tm), and even now, the difference between "What's best for the bottom line" and "What the sales guys will actually let me do" drives me batty.

Never-mind the difference in compensation... the NYT article really glosses over how sales/marketing people receive all sorts of compensation bonuses/gimmicks, but the folks who actually implement and deliver often get, at most, a night or two at the bar when the thing is finished. Would I become a sales guy just for the dollars? No, I did retail in college and hated every minute of it. It would be nice, though, to have something of our own to reach and be rewarded for.

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Author: PolymerMom Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1549 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/4/2011 10:51 PM
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Paul,

Here's a cross-post from METAR in response to Wendy's post.

http://boards.fool.com/just-speaking-for-a-minor-subset-of-m...

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Author: katinga Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Ticker Guide Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1550 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/13/2011 9:00 AM
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http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2005/09/confessions...

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Author: mmrmnhrm Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1551 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/13/2011 9:41 AM
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Finished reading that, and I can draw the following conclusions:
1. This student did NOT research the chosen university properly. Any cursory discussion with current students and alumni would have made it obvious what kind of teachers would be present. FWIW, I went to a mid-sized public school in a mid-major athletic conference. The only place I remember having TA's instead of true professors was in the math department, and while some of them had pretty thick accents, those foreigners were often BETTER at teaching than the "true blue" American TA's.

2. This student is more worried about GPA than learning the material. "Give grades that will make engineering majors competitive in a grade-inflated environment." Exqueeze me?!? You don't pick engineering because you want a 4.0 GPA. You pick it because you want to build stuff.

3. "Engineering professors are perfectly happy weeding out undesirables with absurd boot-camp courses that conceal the inability of said professors to communicate with words." Or in other cases, weeding out the people who truly do not belong in such courses. One former classmate who washed out of Computer Eng never belonged there in the first place. Thought computers were good for nothing but hooking up and porn. He's a baggage inspector at TSA now.

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Author: katinga Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Ticker Guide Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1552 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/13/2011 8:32 PM
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This student did NOT research the chosen university properly.

How many HS seniors who've been cramming AP courses have the ability to network to students capable of reporting on the general quality of a program? Or even their parents, for that matter? Some things, you can't even get hold of, like employment statistics of graduates of a given program.

Thought computers were good for nothing but hooking up and porn.

OTOH, DS got washed out by a course given in his senior year, which fit the description of the article, where the prof used a sink or swim approach.

Instead of attempting a retake, at that point he got a job in IT, which is exactly what he wanted to do, anyway, had he graduated.

This student is more worried about GPA than learning the material.

What if the student tries his darnedest to do well in engineering, graduated with a typical 3.0GPA, and wants to, say, study patent law as a grad student? Answer: he gets beat out by liberal arts majors with their 4.0s. Would you rather have an attorney with an EIT cert. working on your patent or a former Womyns Studies major?

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Author: mmrmnhrm Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1553 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/13/2011 9:59 PM
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How many HS seniors who've been cramming AP courses have the ability to network to students capable of reporting on the general quality of a program?
I should hope all of them. While my high school (in 1995, mind you!) was one of the first to give seniors a day off with the explicit instruction to go visit their top choice school, and NOT count pre-scheduled college visits against them as absences, I can't condone someone in 2005 not taking the time to at least throw a few emails around. If a school is as high and wonderful as this guy makes it sound (maybe it's MIT or Berkeley!), then both the admissions department and the engineering school should be falling over itself to get potential students hooked up for references. If they're not, I'd say it's a big red flag that *something* is wrong.

OTOH, DS got washed out by a course given in his senior year, which fit the description of the article, where the prof used a sink or swim approach.
Was this the *ONLY* prof he could have possibly taken that course from? If not, that's his own bloody fault. I had a "sink or swim" prof myself senior year, who was just too wrapped up in his own little world to care about a couple of undergrads taking an elective course. Thankfully the programming classes I had earlier, together with finding out who his masters and PhD students were and asking them for help, managed to get me through that class. Engineering isn't all about plugging numbers into equations and turning the crank. There is real work involved sometimes, and often you don't even know what you don't know. Not going to judge DS, but this article comes off like some spoiled brat who breezed through HS (just like I did) only to find STEM a lot harder than (s)he bargained for.

Answer: he gets beat out by liberal arts majors with their 4.0s. Would you rather have an attorney with an EIT cert. working on your patent or a former Womyns Studies major?
Actually, I wouldn't even bother. Patent law is so fscked up that anything you invent isn't protected anyways, because Some Other Corp has another patent on a doohickey that barely even looks like your widget, and claims that it does the same thing. Given that SOC has billions in cash, compared to your hundreds, guess who's going to come out of court the winner, no matter who draws up the paperwork.

And in case you weren't aware, law schools look at a lot more than GPA. Three friends of mine have completed law school now, one of whom didn't even have a 3.0 when she was accepted. What she did have was an insanely high LSAT score, recommendations from two local high profile lawyers she had clerked for during summer breaks, and a STEM degree.

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Author: katinga Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Ticker Guide Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1554 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/14/2011 10:42 AM
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Excellent article on the topic: http://volokh.com/2011/11/13/explaining-the-diminishing-retu....

In general, I agree entirely with the many commentators who have argued that the United States needs to produce more STEM graduates. But I also take note of the many people who have written to me to argue that the only truly employable STEM fields at the moment are engineering and computer science, and only certain disciplines within those.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the United States could easily produce an excess of engineers — yes, even engineers. The labor market of a complicated, division-of-labor society means many, many specializations, and most of them are not STEM. We need lawyers, human resources staff, janitors, communications specialists, and many things that too-reductionist a view might lead one to believe are purely frivolous intermediary occupations. Maybe they are parasitical, and maybe they will get squeezed out of existence over time. But there is a sometimes incorrect tendency these days to believe that since innovation is the heart of all increases in productivity and hence in long run growth and wealth, STEM must be responsible for it and that because STEM is the root of innovation, only STEM jobs are truly value added. I exaggerate for effect, but you see the point.

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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1555 of 1626
Subject: Re: NYT: STEM students often drop out or chg ma Date: 11/14/2011 11:52 AM
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It’s also worth keeping in mind that the United States could easily produce an excess of engineers

True, but that means that future students need to research the future prospects a bit more thoroughly.

Engineering is famous for its boom/bust cycle. We are in the midst of a dip. But one suspects things will have recovered by the time most making the choice now--usually as a junior in high school--enter the job market. There is a lag factor in all of this. Over reaction in the dips produces shortages in a dozen years and then the field becomes attractive again--sometimes just in time for another dip. I think its important not to overreact either direction.

Most STEM jobs are ultimately tied to manufacturing or construction and I suppose in the case of computers, services. In spite of globalization and jobs exported to Asia or elsewhere, official figures show the US is still a leading manufacturing country. We will need engineers to keep those plants running. But of course some fields will be stronger than others.

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