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Assessing the Impact of Faculty Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring in an Alternative Multi-year, Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Assessment and Impact

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.219.1 - 25.219.12



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Paper Authors


Mary Raber Michigan Technological University

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Mary Raber currently serves as Associate Director for the Institute for Leadership and Innovation and Director of the Enterprise Program at Michigan Technological University. She has overseen the implementation and growth of the Enterprise Program at Michigan Tech since its inception in 2000, and is responsible for its overall coordination and development. Her responsibilities include corporate sponsorship development, interdisciplinary program evaluation and assessment, and workshop/course instruction in the areas of teaming and leadership. She is also actively involved in coordination, curriculum development, assessment, and instruction in the Pavlis Global Leadership program. She received her B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Wayne State University and is currently working on her Ph.D. at Michigan Technological University. Before joining MTU, she held various engineering and management positions during a 15 year career in the automotive industry.

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Susan L. Amato-Henderson Michigan Technological University

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Susan Amato-Henderson is an Associate Professor of psychology in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Technological University, earning her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of North Dakota. Her research focuses on assessment of educational outcomes in higher education as related to STEM learning, with a focus on the effects of various experiences on individuals' self-efficacy, entrepreneurial intentions, creativity, and other related constructs, as well as the effects of an individual's values and professional role orientation on STEM learning, retention, persistence, and ethics.

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Assessing the Impact of Faculty Teaching, Advising and Mentoring in an Alternative Multi-Year, Interdisciplinary Capstone Design ProgramAbstractIn 2000, we introduced a new undergraduate engineering curriculum option intended to serve asan alternative to the traditional two-semester senior capstone design experience and one thatwould better meet the needs of both students and industry. Initially funded through an NSFAction Agenda grant, this program offers teams of students from varied disciplines theopportunity to work for several years in a business-like setting to solve real-world engineeringproblems supplied by industry. This alternative capstone program is now a self-sustainingprogram that attracts engineering and other STEM-discipline students to the university, retainsthem, and makes them more marketable to employers when they graduate. Each alternativecapstone design team operates as much as possible like a real company in the private sector andis run by the students. Team sizes range from 10 to 70 or more members. All team members haveprescribed responsibilities corresponding to their level of maturity, abilities, and technicaleducation. Team members define problems, develop and design solutions, perform testing andanalyses, make recommendations, manufacture parts, stay within budgets and schedules, andmanage multiple projects. This alternative capstone design program has converted the traditionalclassroom into a multi-year, interdisciplinary, experiential learning environment and hastransformed the role of instructor from one who imparts knowledge to that of advisor and mentorwho guides students as they discover and apply knowledge.Under NSF’s IEECI program, we undertook a study to determine whether student participationin this multi-year, interdisciplinary design program and the roles of faculty mentors and advisorsare positively correlated to successful student education outcomes. Although routine instructorevaluation takes place each semester for coursework associated with the program, no assessmentproject has attempted to measure the impact of faculty involvement on outcomes such as studentretention and entrepreneurial intentions. The impacts of teaching, advising, and mentoring inteam-based design programs are not typically susceptible to the kinds of metrics used to measureresearch accomplishments. Therefore, a model that can directly measure quality in hands-on,discovery-based learning environments and its impact on student outcomes would be potentiallytransformative. Evaluation results can help strengthen the business of engineering education byoffering additional evidence of the impact of a curriculum such as that used in capstoneprograms, and the contribution of faculty who teach, advise, and mentor students. This isvaluable information for recruiting engineering students, for designing programs that retainengineering and other STEM students, for improving engineering education, and for attractingindustry support. Students from both the traditional senior capstone design program and from thealternative capstone design program participated in this survey so the possible impact of multi-year participation could be assessed.In this paper, we share the evaluation methods used and results of our study. We suggestpractical applications of the knowledge gained to the improvement of engineering education.We also include recommended methods and metrics for assessing the impact of teaching,advising, and mentoring on student retention in engineering, graduation, career intentions, andother outcomes.

Raber, M., & Amato-Henderson, S. L. (2012, June), Assessing the Impact of Faculty Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring in an Alternative Multi-year, Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20979

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