Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology


Career and Technical Education (CTE) has evolved from industry-specific training to a more broad-based education that incorporates core academic learning objectives and prepares the student for work (Rothwell & Gerity, 2008; Uloa, 2006; Reese, 2002; Rojewski, 2002; Stone, 2002; Schmidli, 2001). Little is known about how well individual programs align with the industry for which graduates are prepared, (Zinser, 2003) or what CTE has meant to its graduates.

This research focused on graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineering Technology (HVAC-ET) at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. A phenomenological design was used to view the HVAC-ET program from the perspective of both campus and distance learning (online) graduates. Ten campus graduates and eight online graduates were interviewed to determine (a) what the HVAC-ET program meant to them on a personal level; (b) how they perceived they were prepared for their careers; (c) the essential core-academic, general education, and non-academic elements of a relevant HVAC-ET program; (d) and what changes they perceived would improve the HVAC-ET program from the perspectives of pedagogy and relevance.

Most significantly, the study found that all graduates: (a) exhibited a strong positive attitude toward HVAC-ET; (b) harbored feelings of pride, gratitude and self fulfillment as a result of their experience; (c) were ambivalent toward general education; (d) identified the curriculum, the faculty, and the social environment as essential elements of a relevant HVAC-ET program; (e) felt well-prepared for their jobs; and (f) found the program to be aligned with the HVAC industry. Additionally, campus graduates cited the facility, internships, and industry-sponsored student organizations, while online graduates found the quality and organization of the online lecture series and prompt feedback to be as essential elements of their experience.

Though the study found HVAC-ET to be meaningful to the graduates and relevant with the industry, campus graduates recommended the addition of a contracting business course and program accreditation that would enable graduates to become professional engineers. Online graduates advocated for improved communication via faster feedback and continuous quality improvement of course materials.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access