June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.204.1 - 26.204.19
An NSF AGEP Program's Unintended Effect on Broadening Participation: Transforming “Non-STEM” Graduate Students into Engineering Education Faculty, Researchers, K-12 Educators, and AdvocatesThe National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate(AGEP) program focuses on increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities (URM) whowill get STEM PhDs and go on to become professors. While typically serving students withinSTEM fields, the AGEP for our state has broadened its reach to include participants from variousdisciplines. Our activities engage students from engineering along with those from science,education, and the humanities, and we open professional development activities to graduatestudents from all backgrounds, races, and cultures. This level of inclusion provides a sense ofcommunity and critical mass of scholars for the URM STEM students. However, this practice ofincluding people from several backgrounds and disciplines in the AGEP’s activities has yieldedan interesting and unintended effect on the career trajectories of the non-STEM participants. Allparticipants are educated on issues of STEM, and needs within the engineering educationcommunity. The non-STEM participants also contribute to forming engineering pipelines, teachin engineering programs in magnet schools, mentor engineering and IT undergraduates, anddevelop engineering teaching and learning research thrusts with faculty colleagues! AGEP non-STEM alumni examples include a sociologist who is a mentor and advocate for computer sciencetraining at her current institution, a curriculum and instruction professor who is a Co-PI onengineering projects with her colleagues, a professor in education who studies engineering careerpreparation, and one of the authors of this paper who mentors engineering and IT faculty inteaching.Our conceptual framework is based on McMillan and Chavis’ 1986 Psychological Sense ofCommunity (PSOC), which examines membership, influence, integration and fulfillment ofneeds, and shared emotional connections. We propose that the AGEP’s adherence to the PSOCmodel provides a community psychology perspective on factors that influence our non-STEMparticipants to become engineering educators. Examples include concepts of “bondedness,”being connected to other members of the community, and “rootedness,” commitment to stayingwithin the community. We also examine the sense of community construct of “neighborhoods,”e.g., the length of anticipated time that a resident stays in a region. In our case, the “region” is thefield of engineering education. There is also discussion of “safety” and its relation to wanting toknow others in the community, and “have needs met.” Our phenomenological study asksquestions of 10 non-STEM AGEP alumni who serve as representative informants to examine theAGEP’s allowances for connection with students from engineering disciplines, the program’sinfluence on their sense of commitment to the AGEP program and their non-STEM discipline,their feelings of safety (physical, psychological, emotional, professional) as they participated, theextent to which they provide a safe atmosphere for those whom they now mentor, and how theAGEP met their needs. Our unintended, positive discoveries demonstrate “transformativechange” (Matusovich, Paretti, McNair & Hixson, 2014), in which the interplay betweeneducational research and practice via exposure to STEM development programs has led to cross-disciplinary skills, relationships, and mentorship that benefit engineering education. We willdiscuss implications of our discoveries for future mentorship models.
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