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A Symbiotic Solution for Facilitating Faculty Transitions in Engineering Academia

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

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Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Comas Lamar Haynes Georgia Tech Research Institute

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Comas Lamar Haynes is a Principal Research Engineer / faculty member of the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Joint Faculty Appointee at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His research includes modeling steady state and transient behavior of advanced energy systems, inclusive of their thermal management, and the characterization and optimization of novel cycles. He has advised graduate and undergraduate research assistants and has received multi-agency funding for energy systems analysis and development. Sponsor examples include the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and NASA. Dr. Haynes also develops fuel cells and alternative energy systems curricula for public and college courses and experimental laboratories. Additionally, he is the co-developer of the outreach initiative, Educators Leading Energy Conservation and Training Researchers of Diverse Ethnicities (ELECTRoDE). He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Florida A&M University and his graduate degrees (culminating in a Ph.D.) from Georgia Tech; and all of the degrees are in the discipline of Mechanical Engineering.

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Rosario A. Gerhardt Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Rosario A. Gerhardt is Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition to her engineering research interests, she is also interested in improving diversity at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate and faculty level. She has been primary organizer as well as a faculty mentor for several Future Faculty Workshops. She also worked in the Office of Institute Diversity at Georgia Tech on a part-time basis from 2011-2015. She was named Senior Goizueta Faculty Chair in 2015.

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Valerie Martin Conley Ph.D. University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

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Valerie Martin Conley is dean of the College of Education and professor of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She previously served as director of the Center for Higher Education, professor, and department chair at Ohio University. She was the PI for the NSF funded research project: Academic Career Success in Science and Engineering-Related Fields for Female Faculty at Public Two-Year Institutions. She is co-author of The Faculty Factor: Reassessing the American Academy in a Turbulent Era.

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Sylvia L. Mendez University of Colorado Colorado Springs

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Dr. Sylvia Mendez is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Her educational and professional background is in the history of P-20 education. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas, her M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University, and her B.A. in Economics from Washington State University. Sylvia's research centers on the educational attainment and schooling experiences of Mexican descent youth in the mid-20th century, higher education student success, and the principal-counselor pre-service professional relationship. She teaches foundations, research, and supervised practice courses in the Educational Leadership MA Programs and the Leadership, Research, and Policy Ph.D. Program.

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Two challenges to the logical shift in the nation’s engineering faculty demographics may actually become merged as a symbiotic pair of solutions. Underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM recently accounted for 6.3% of engineering faculty (National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, 2014), despite approaching nearly a third of the nation’s population (2010 Census). A central reason for the disproportionate representation is the continued need for effective mentorship and advocacy for these historically marginalized groups into and through the professoriate. Another challenge to the requisite shift in engineering faculty composition pertains to the effective transition of senior faculty who are of retirement age yet have the skillsets and desire to continue to be “active”.

These two perceived “bottlenecks” in the engineering professoriate are simultaneously addressed by strategically matching retired (with emphasis upon “emeriti”) faculty as advocates-mentors for appropriately matched URM faculty. A new set of stakeholders are thus employed to provide additional “coaching and connections” unto demographically underrepresented scholars who are within their formative (e.g., pre-tenure) or mid-career years; hence, URM attrition effects through the ranks of academia may be alleviated. Additionally, a new systematic outlet is made available for senior engineering colleagues with extensive scholarship and faculty career developmental insight; hence, retirement reservations are addressed in part by new applications for their “academic wealth” beyond tenured appointments. Synergistically, a transformative outcome could be more engineering faculty positions opening to an increasingly diversified pool of talent, wherein a generation of retired/retiring faculty advocate for their collective “trainees” to be empowered successors.

A pilot program, Increasing Minority Presence within Academia through Continuous Training (IMPACT), was accordingly implemented wherein seven emeriti faculty from a large engineering college were matched with ten URM engineering faculty and one URM post-doctoral associate with near-term aspirations toward academia. The URM participants were also diverse as far as gender (55% women) and institutional settings (e.g., HBCUs, Ivy League, land grant, private primarily teaching).

Protocols used for recruiting-matching and proactive intervention were key implementation measures. The URM faculty were primarily recruited via a recently developed database of minority STEM faculty, as well as more “grass roots” efforts. The emeriti faculty were pooled from a large engineering college in pilot manner. Strategically pairing members of the two groups via their areas of specialization (e.g., tribology, polymer science and engineering, operations research) provided a strong catalyst for relational rapport as well as professional relevance. Additionally, proactive interventions included a “kick-off” meeting to allow in-person introductions between project participants, clarifications of the framework’s intent and counsel from established experts in the area of mentoring. Participants were then allowed to confirm or reject the nominal pairings after their meetings and discussions. A final phase of proactive intervention has been for the lead investigator to periodically, yet informally, check with individual participants regarding their activities with their confirmed partners. As will be conveyed, both sets of participants have generally had positive outcomes from, and sentiments toward, this initiative.

Haynes, C. L., & Gerhardt, R. A., & Conley, V. M., & Mendez, S. L. (2017, June), A Symbiotic Solution for Facilitating Faculty Transitions in Engineering Academia Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27524

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