This is a Work-in-Progress paper. As students begin their journey to become an engineer, first-year engineering (FYE) courses serve as an introduction to the profession. FYE courses provide numerous benefits including improving retention from the first to second year. For practitioners considering adding a new FYE course, the literature presents multiple possibilities for structuring the course. However, there is limited knowledge about how the various FYE program structures impact the student experience. Our work focuses on examining the development of engineering identity and engineering communities as students pursue engineering degrees through various pathways. We conducted interviews with students from two different universities that employ different FYE models. Institution 1 is a large southern land-grant university that uses a direct matriculation model with major-specific FYE courses. Institution 2 is a large midwestern land-grant university that uses a pre-major first year experience model. Interviews were conducted during the students’ second year of engineering (i.e., the year immediately after completing an FYE program/course). During the initial interviews, students were asked questions including 1) What kinds of groups did you associate with during your first year? 2) In what ways are you connected to these groups? 3) What was your greatest struggle during your first year? 4) Are you an engineer? Our analysis is guided by Wenger’s Communities of Practice framework and Gee’s identity frameworks. In this paper, we focus on the case of two veterans and their experiences as FYE students in different FYE pathways. Jacob is a transfer student pursuing a computer engineering degree through a post-general education FYE pathway. Malcolm is a transfer student pursuing a computer science degree through a pre-major common FYE pathway. We focus on similarities and differences in Jacob and Malcom’s engineering identity and engineering communities while considering the impact of their FYE programs. Our findings are relevant to practitioners who are creating a new FYE course, and to engineering education researchers who are examining the student experience specifically consider students’ who are veterans.
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