Why Has Female Enrollment in One Engineering Elective Increased to Almost 80% Over the Past Six Years?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Over the past six years, one engineering elective at Valparaiso University has seen a dramatic, continuous increase in its female enrollment. While Valparaiso University’s female engineering enrollment oscillates around the national average, enrollment in ECE490 (Innovation in Engineering Design) has risen steadily from 19% to 77%.

The class introduces design as a multi-disciplinary concept and is open to all engineering majors. The first half of the semester is offered on Valparaiso University’s campus. Students then participate in a five-day field trip, traveling from our midwest campus to Disneyland(C) Resort in Anaheim, California, or Walt Disney World(C) Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. At the parks, students participate in multiple workshops and tours focusing on engineering, design, creativity, innovation, leadership, teamwork, and communication. Sessions are led by either Valparaiso University faculty or Disney Parks Cast Members. After returning to campus, students complete the final seven weeks of the semester at Valparaiso University.

This paper will provide a more detailed description of ECE490. This paper will also introduce several theories to explain the increasing enrollment of women in the class. We will present our conclusion that the increase in female enrollment is a result of a number of different factors, rather than one single reason.


Presented at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference, Columbus, OH, June 25-28, 2017.