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An NSF AGEP Program's Unintended Effect on Broadening Participation: Transforming “Non-STEM” Graduate Students into Engineering Education Faculty, Researchers, K-12 Educators, and Advocates

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Supporting Diversity through Co-curricular Programming

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.204.1 - 26.204.19



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Paper Authors


Renetta G. Tull University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Renetta Garrison Tull is Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Student Professional Development & Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC: An Honors University in Maryland), where she is the Co-PI and Founding Director for the National Science Foundation’s PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) for the 12 institutions in the University System of Maryland, and Co-PI Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate at UMBC. Dr. Tull has worked with thousands of students from Alaska to Puerto Rico, and in Latin America through graduate school preparation workshops that have been sponsored by The National GEM Consortium, National Society of Black Engineers, Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society for the Advancement of Chicano, and Native American Scientists, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and the Alliance/Merck Ciencia Hispanic Scholars Program. She has presented workshops on graduate school admissions, “The Success Equation,” STEM initiatives, and PhD Completion in Panama, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and schools across the United States. Tull is on the board of advisors for the PNW-COSMOS Alliance to increase the number of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students who complete STEM graduate programs, and is a speaker on “GRADLab” tour with the National GEM Consortium, giving talks across the US each Saturday morning during the Fall. Tull researched speech technology as former member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has co-authored several publications on achievement in STEM fields, and is a mentoring consultant for Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and MIT. She co-leads the “ADVANCE Hispanic Women in STEM” project in Puerto Rico, and the Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions’ (LACCEI) “Women in STEM” forum. Tull is a Tau Beta Pi “Eminent Engineer.”

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Alexis Y. Williams University of Maryland Baltimore County

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Dr. Alexis Y. Williams serves as a member of the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology teaching faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is Assistant Director for PROF-it (Professors-in-Training), a University System of Maryland teaching professional development program housed at UMBC, designed for STEM graduate students and postdocs, and open to any who are interested in academia.

Her research, teaching, and service address achievement motivation, the scholarship of teaching and learning, mentorship models for undergraduate and graduate students, and professional support of all students, with special emphasis for those from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM and beyond. She has enjoyed collaborations with colleagues from multidisciplinary backgrounds toward solving special challenges in teaching and learning. Her ongoing collaborations analyze 1) the experiences of participants in STEM professional development programs for retention and success in academia and 2) similarities, differences, and gaps in the expectations of STEM faculty and students toward successful undergraduate course completion.

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Shawnisha Shonté Hester University of Maryland Baltimore County

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Shawnisha S. Hester is an Evaluation and Assessment Coordinator. She earned both her BA in Psychology and MA in Applied Sociology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She went on to complete her MSW from University of Maryland School of Social Work. Her research interests focus on using qualitative research methods that measure various phenomena and making connections via an interdisciplinary approach, qualitative evaluation and assessment measurements, increasing the number of minorities in STEM fields, and program development at the graduate level. She has had the opportunity to present at a regional and national conference and she has conducted research internationally. In addition, Ms. Hester is a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) in the state of Maryland and provides outpatient mental health treatment to members in underserved communities. Contact information:

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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.

Tull, R. G., & Williams, A. Y., & Hester, S. S. (2015, June), An NSF AGEP Program's Unintended Effect on Broadening Participation: Transforming “Non-STEM” Graduate Students into Engineering Education Faculty, Researchers, K-12 Educators, and Advocates Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23543

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