June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Minorities in Engineering
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.
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